Asia stocks up after Wall Street sets record high

Asian shares rose early on Friday after Wall Street set another record high with prospects for a Federal Reserve rate hike in June all but quashed, while the dollar steadied after losing ground to the euro for the first time this week on downbeat US
Asian shares rose early on Friday after Wall Street set another record high with prospects for a Federal Reserve rate hike in June all but quashed, while the dollar steadied after losing ground to the euro for the first time this week on downbeat US data. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares rose early on Friday after Wall Street set another record high with prospects for a Federal Reserve rate hike in June all but quashed, while the dollar steadied after losing ground to the euro for the first time this week on downbeat US data.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 per cent with South Korean and Australian shares edging higher.

Tokyo's Nikkei was little changed, hovering at a 15-year high. Japanese stocks have been boosted this week by data showing stronger-than-expected first quarter growth.

The Bank of Japan concludes its two-day policy meeting later in the session and while the central bank is widely expected to stand pat on policy, with some focus on how it perceived GDP growth in the first quarter.

"There is little tension over the Bank of Japan policy meeting. Governor Kuroda and colleagues have sounded comfortable with the current policy stance and are likely to point to the slight upside surprise on Q1 GDP as further vindication," Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney, wrote in a note.

The S&P inched up 0.2 per cent to close at a new all-time high overnight, albeit amid below-average volume. US equities have been relieved after seeing the April Fed policy meeting minutes released midweek show that most officials were not inclined towards a June hike.

The US economy has shown signs of strength but its recovery has not been as robust as expected. Soft US data released overnight - weaker-than-expected existing home sales, the manufacturing sector and US Mid-Atlantic business activity - appeared to vindicate the Fed officials' cautious policy stance.

US Treasury yields fell in wake of the soft economic indicators, helping nudge the dollar away from recent highs against peers such as like the euro and yen.

The euro was steady at US$1.1110 after bouncing 0.2 per cent overnight for its first gain in four days. It had hit a three-week low of US$1.1062 earlier this week amid Greek debt concerns.

The dollar was little changed at 121.04 yen after losing 0.3 per cent overnight to end a five-day winning run. The greenback scaled a two-month peak of 121.49 midweek on bets the currency was ready for a run higher after weeks in the doldrums.

In commodities, US crude took a breather, inching down 0.1 per cent to US$60.69, after surging nearly 3 per cent overnight on data that eased supply glut concerns and fighting in Iraq. Brent dipped 0.2 per cent to US$66.42 a barrel after rising 2.3 per cent.