May 14, 2014 / 12:57 AM / 3 years ago

Asian shares edge up, euro pressured

Pedestrians walk past an electronic board showing various stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo May 13, 2014.Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares inched up on Wednesday, while the euro wobbled close to five-week lows on heightened speculation of more European Central Bank stimulus next month.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent in early trading. Japan's Nikkei was down 0.3 percent.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks ended flat on Tuesday. A weaker-than-expected U.S. retail sales report dented the dollar only slightly and the S&P 500 managed to eke out its tenth record closing high of the year after the release, as the figures did little to change views the economy was poised for faster growth this quarter.  

"The lack of a reaction to such a critical report has to do with the belief that the slowdown in spending will not distract the central bank from its plans to taper asset purchases by $10 billion at each successive meeting," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in a note to clients.

The retail sales report does help explain why the Federal Reserve has not set a clear time frame for its first interest rate hike, she added. 

By contrast, the likelihood of easing action increased in the euro zone. The Bundesbank is ready to support ECB policy steps if they are warranted and this stance is not new, two Bundesbank sources said on Tuesday.

A weak German ZEW survey of investor sentiment lent credence to the view that the ECB has reason to take further action next month.

German ZEW graphic: link.reuters.com/cag54s

The euro last traded at $1.3706, not far from the overnight low of $1.3688. A break below the April 4 trough of $1.3672 would take the single currency back to levels not seen since late February.

The pressure on the euro helped support the dollar index, which was slightly down on the day at 80.100, but remained close to Tuesday's five-week high of 80.180.

Against its Japanese counterpart, the dollar was steady at 102.24 yen, after rising as high as 102.35 yen on Tuesday, its highest since May 2.

In commodities trading, U.S. crude added about 0.2 percent to $101.87 a barrel, extending Tuesday's two-week highs hit on expectations that weekly inventory reports will show record low stockpiles.

Spot gold inched up to $1,294.06 an ounce.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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