Asian markets cheered by ECB's stimulus boost, euro wallows near 11-year low

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian equities extended a global equities rally on Friday after the European Central Bank launched a bond-buying stimulus drive in a landmark move that buoyed investor risk appetite, drove bonds higher and left the euro pinned near 11-year lows.

Crude oil prices jumped after Saudi Arabia announced that King Abdullah had died and his successor, Salman, moved quickly to name his own heir to rule the world's biggest oil exporter. U.S. crude rose US$1.07 to US$47.38 a barrel.

The ECB took the ultimate leap into quantitative easing on Thursday, launching a government bond-buying programme which will pump hundreds of billions of new money into a sagging euro zone economy.

In response European shares surged, German stocks hit record peaks and euro zone bonds rallied, with German government yields sliding to new record lows. The euro plummeted, bringing parity with the dollar in sight.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 and the Dow each gained 1.5 per cent overnight.

Lifted by the global surge in equities, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose to an eight-week high and was last up 0.2 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei rallied 1 per cent and Australian and South Korean shares also made sizeable gains.

The euro was down 0.1 per cent at US$1.1359, not far from the 11-year trough of US$1.1316 struck overnight.

"There isn't much of a case to be buying the pair at the moment, considering the increasing divergence between the two economies. We have also learnt recently not to fight central banks and this is just another example," Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note to clients.

The common currency also fell to a three-month low of 134.28 yen.

The euro is gearing up for another trial as global markets await snap Greek elections on Jan. 25. A win by the leftist Syriza party, which has pulled ahead on opinion polls, could trigger a standoff with the EU/IMF lenders and drive Greece from the euro zone.

The dollar was up 0.2 percent at 118.745 yen. The greenback was on track to book a 1 per cent gain on the week, though a sharp decline in U.S. Treasury yields after the ECB's easing may slow its rise against the yen.

The Australian dollar briefly fell below 80 U.S. cents for the first time in more than five years. The Aussie has been under pressure as a surprise rate cut by the Bank of Canada this week has raised expectations the Reserve Bank of Australia could soon following suit.

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