Asian shares slip, but upbeat Japan GDP lifts Nikkei

People walking past an electric quotation board flashing the numbers of the Nikkei key index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company in Tokyo. -- PHOTO: AFP
People walking past an electric quotation board flashing the numbers of the Nikkei key index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company in Tokyo. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares got off to a lacklustre start on Wednesday after a mixed day on Wall Street, though Japan's better-than-expected economic growth lifted the Nikkei to a nearly one-month high.

The euro remained pressured by expectations that the European Central Bank would increase its bond-buying stimulus.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down about 0.1 per cent in early trade.

The Nikkei stock index rose 0.8 per cent after data before the market open showed Japan's economy grew at a 2.4 per cent annualised rate in the January-March period, its fastest pace in a year, on a pick-up in capital spending and beating the consensus estimate for 1.5 per cent growth.

Wall Street put in a mixed performance on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average eking out a slight gain to close at a fresh record high, while the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 both edged down, though the latter touched a record intraday high.

Data showed that U.S. housing starts jumped to their highest level in nearly 7-1/2 years in April and building permits soared, raising hopes that the economy was regaining strength after stalling the first quarter but also rekindling fears that the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise interest rates later this year.

The euro licked its wounds after plunging more than 1 per cent against the US dollar in the previous session, after European Central Bank Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said the ECB could "moderately" increase its bond-buying programme in May and June, and possibly in September.

The common currency was buying US$1.1145, slightly down on the day.

The dollar was slightly higher against the yen at 120.82 , though the better-than-expected GDP figures made it less likely that the Bank of Japan would take additional easing steps anytime soon. The BOJ is likely to stand pat at a policy meeting ending on Friday.

Crude oil futures took back some lost ground after sinking more than 3 per cent overnight as the dollar strengthened.

Brent added about 0.8 per cent to US$64.52 a barrel while U.S. crude also added about 0.8 per cent to US$58.43, after both shed more than $2 a barrel on Tuesday.