September 17, 2012 / 2:58 AM / 5 years ago

Asian stocks firm, dollar sags after Fed-inspired rally

Pedestrians walk past a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo September 14, 2012.Kim Kyung-Hoon

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian stocks touched their highest in more than four months on Monday and gold, oil and copper hovered near multi-month highs, after rallying late last week on hopes that fresh stimulus from the world's top central banks will support flagging growth.

The dollar languished near its lowest in seven months, as the aggressive new securities-buying programme announced by the Federal Reserve on Thursday tempted investors back into riskier assets such as equities and commodities.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.2 percent, having reached its highest level since early May. Tokyo markets were closed for a holiday.

Most of the regional gains came in the growth-sensitive materials and energy sectors.

"The materials sector has broken out of a downtrend," said IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu in Melbourne.

The tone has been bullish in financial markets since the European Central Bank said on September 6 it would intervene in the bond markets to drive down the borrowing costs of struggling euro zone members.

A second monetary shot-in-the-arm was delivered by the Fed, which said it would pump $40 billion into the economy each month until the jobs market shows sustained improvement, powering U.S. stocks .SPX to their highest close in nearly five years on Friday.

The MSCI Asia ex-Japan has climbed more than 7.5 percent since September 5.

LIQUIDITY BOOST

So-called quantitative easing, in which the Fed creates money to buy assets, tends to support stocks and commodities due to the increased liquidity flowing into markets, but the flood of dollars can weigh on the U.S. currency.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, eased 0.1 percent Monday, having fallen on Friday to levels not seen since late February.

The euro fetched around $1.3130, up 0.1 percent on the day but below a four-month peak of $1.3169 set on Friday. It has soared nearly 10 percent from a 25-month trough around $1.2042 plumbed in July.

Oil prices were firm, with Brent crude rising 0.2 percent to around $116.90 a barrel, while U.S. crude edged above $99 a barrel.

Copper prices eased 0.3 percent to around $8,355 a tonne.

Oil and copper reached four-and-a-half month highs late last week.

Gold, traditionally seen as a store of value by investors worried that central bank money-printing will ultimately stoke inflation, firmed around 0.3 percent to about $1,775 an ounce near its highest level in seven months.

Editing by Michael Perry

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