Asia shares up on Wall St record, dollar slips against pound

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets advanced Wednesday, taking a strong lead from a record close on Wall Street, while a weaker yen helped Tokyo add to the previous day's healthy gains.

The dollar sat at more than five-and-a-half-year lows against the pound after a strong set of manufacturing figures out of Britain.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the release later in the week of closely watched US jobs figures that will provide fresh clues about the strength of the recovery in the world's number one economy.

Tokyo rose 0.48 per cent, while Hong Kong added 0.54 per cent, Sydney put on 1.20 per cent and Seoul gained 0.75 per cent. Shanghai was flat.

US shares jumped in response to news out of China that a survey of manufacturing activity in June hit its highest level this year, suggesting a growth slowdown in the Asian economic giant may have bottomed out. Traders were also boosted by a surprisingly strong batch of US auto sales.

The Dow climbed 0.77 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.67 per cent - both ending at all-time highs. The Nasdaq surged 1.14 per cent.

Investors were unfazed by the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing purchasing managers index of manufacturing activity, which dipped marginally in June.

Focus now turns to the release of non-farm payrolls figures from the US labour department.

"Upcoming US jobs data should help to reinforce hopes that the US economic recovery remains on track," Mizuho Securities senior technical analyst Yutaka Miura told Dow Jones Newswires.

On currency markets, the dollar headed back towards 102 yen after sinking over the past few days. In New York on Tuesday the greenback rose to 101.53 yen from 101.40 yen in Tokyo earlier in the day.

In Asian business on Wednesday the unit sat at 101.63 yen. The euro bought US$1.3674 and 138.97 yen in Tokyo against US$1.3677 and 138.88 yen in New York.

The dollar was also under pressure against the pound after a surprise rise in British manufacturing data for June.

The pound bought US$1.7144 in Tokyo after hitting US$1.7166 late Tuesday, the highest level since October 2008.

Currency dealers have been moving into the pound in recent weeks after the head of the Bank of England suggested interest rates could rise sooner than initially thought as the economy picks up pace.

Oil prices were mixed. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery rose eight cents to US$105.42, while Brent crude for August eased 11 cents to US$112.18.

Gold fetched US$1,325.00 an ounce at 0200 GMT compared with US$1,325.00 late Tuesday.