Asian shares rise on Fed minutes, unfazed by China exports

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares look to extend recent solid gains on Thursday after minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting suggested the Fed may be more cautious towards raising interest rates than markets had thought.

Chinese exports and imports both undershot market expectations, but analysts said the data was likely to be distorted due to over-invoicing last year to skirt tight capital controls and markets showed muted reaction to the data.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit a five-month high and last stood 0.1 per cent higher, while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.7 per cent from a two-week low hit the previous day.

The minutes showed Federal Reserve officials fretted last month that investors would overreact to policymakers' latest views on interest rates that appeared to map out a more aggressive cycle of rate hikes than was actually anticipated.

"It's not so much that the Fed was dovish but the Fed has turned out not to have become hawkish. People were nervous as it was the first meeting under Yellen," said Tohru Yamamoto, chief fixed income strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The perceived dovish tone of the minutes, from a March 18-19 Federal Open Market Committee meeting lifted all three major US stock indexes more than 1 per cent, with recently battered Internet and biotech stocks among the day's biggest gainers.

It also sparked a wave of buying of short- and intermediate-term government debt, pushing yields to their lowest levels in three weeks.

Investors are pushing back expectations of the Fed's first rate increase to late 2016, with federal funds futures now pricing it in around October, compared to around August about a week ago.

Chinese shares held near a seven-week high hit the previous day even after surprisingly weak trade data as investors expect the government to continue to take steps to prop up the economy.

Elsewhere, Indonesian shares and the rupiah currency fell a day after the main opposition party failed to win enough votes in parliamentary elections to nominate hugely popular Jakarta governor Joko Widodo for the presidency without the help of other parties.