Asian stocks tick up, euro subdued as ECB maintains easing bias

A passerby walks past a stock indicator at the window of a security company in Tokyo on March 31, 2017.
A passerby walks past a stock indicator at the window of a security company in Tokyo on March 31, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Asian stocks inched higher on Friday (April 28) and looked set to close a strong week on a positive note, while the euro slipped after the European Central Bank showed no signs of paring its stimulus programme.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 per cent, putting it on pace to end the week up 1.9 per cent, which would be its best week in six. Earlier in the week, it hit an almost two-year high.

Japan's Nikkei fell 0.1 per cent as March industrial output and household spending fell more than expected and consumer inflation remained tepid. But the index was poised for a 3.3 per cent weekly gain, its strongest since November.

The yen was steady at 111.23 yen to the US dollar, but looked set to end the week weaker, with the dollar posting a 2 per cent gain.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of global peers, gained 0.1 per cent to 99.198, but is headed for a 0.8 per cent weekly loss, thanks to a surge in the euro.

On Wall Street, a slew of strong earnings reports from companies including Comcast, PayPal and Intuit propelled the Nasdaq to an all-time high.

Google parent Alphabet and Amazon, reporting after the bell, reported profits that beat expectations after the bell, while Microsoft disappointed.

"Most folks were expecting a build in earnings acceleration and that's what we've got. Despite all the economic and geopolitical noise, ultimately the market has been responding to improving earnings," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat.

Markets are awaiting further direction in the form of first-quarter US gross domestic product data and consumer confidence for April due later in the session.

Preliminary data is expected to show US economic growth slowed sharply in January-March to a 1.2 per cent annualized rate from 2.1 per cent in the previous quarter. Weaker consumer and construction spending likely dragged on activity.

Investors are also looking to first-quarter GDP data out of the UK and France, and euro-zone inflation figures for April.

The euro, which is on track for its best week in 5 1/2 months, inched down early on Friday after the ECB maintained its ultra-easy policy stance on Thursday as inflation remained tepid, although acknowledging the strength of the euro zone economy.

The common currency slipped about 0.1 per cent to US$1.0861, but remained poised for a weekly gain of 1.3 per cent.

Oil recovered slightly after touching its lowest level this month overnight on concerns over the restart of two key Libyan oilfields and muted gasoline demand.

US crude rose about 0.5 per cent to US$49.23 a barrel, but is headed for a weekly loss of 0.8 per cent.