* Asian shares ex-Japan close to one-year records
* China import, export data beat expectations
* ECB meets amid talk it may extend asset buying deadline
* Oil bounces on news of large inventory draw
By Patrick Graham
LONDON, Sept 8 Better than expected trade
numbers from China kept Asian stock markets near one-year peaks
on Thursday while helping prod those in Europe higher ahead of a
European Central Bank decision that may hint at, or even
deliver, more monetary stimulus.
The first annual rise in Chinese imports since late 2014 was
a welcome fillip but came after a mixed bag of data which may
add to the pressure on Frankfurt to do yet more to stimulate a
struggling euro zone economy.
Nearly all analysts polled by Reuters expect ECB rates to
remain unchanged on Thursday, though there is speculation that
President Mario Draghi will announce an extension of its 80
billion euro of monthly asset buys.
If the central bank were to make that call, it would likely
reinforce speculation of more easing before year-end, although
the jury is definitely out on whether that would do much to
weaken the euro - trading at a two-week high of $1.1279 on
"If the ECB really wants to weaken the euro, it would have
to surprise on the expansionary side and it would probably have
to deliver something new - not just an extension of QE or
another rate cut even," said Commerzbank currency strategist Thu
Lan Nguyen, in Frankfurt.
"Those are the measures the market already knows, and the
market knows they haven't really helped in the last couple of
years to bring inflation back to target."
The generally shaky economic outlook may, on balance, be a
positive for riskier investments like stocks and emerging
markets if the end result is to stave off another rise in U.S.
Federal Reserve interest rates.
While the Fed is moving at a snail's pace - one quarter
point rate rise so far in almost three years of speculation - a
move this month or a clear signal one is coming before year-end
would still be a shock to investors who have become dependent on
funding that costs effectively nothing.
Europe's major markets were steady
to a touch higher in early trade. London's FTSE 100 gained half
a percent, helped by a solid gain for banking stocks.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
gained 0.1 percent on the day, just short of
peaks hit during the day on Wednesday.
With the Fed heading in the opposite direction, new rounds
of money-printing to support the broad buying of assets that has
pushed stocks higher and many government bond yields deep into
negative territory will have to come from the ECB and the Bank
"Draghi isn't anywhere near to achieving his goals, and he
might very well continue to assure the market that there might
be more to come and that he still has tools available to boost
growth," said Markus Huber, trader at City of London Markets
The yen, pushed higher over the summer by the belief that
the Bank of Japan has little left in its armoury to weaken the
currency, firmed another 0.2 percent to 101.67 per dollar
BOJ Deputy Governor Hiroshi Nakaso said the bank would not
conduct policy to effect the yen.
(Additional reporting by Jemima Kelly and Sudip Kar-Gupta;
Editing by Jon Boyle)