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Asian shares subdued, dollar holds gains before U.S. jobs report

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[May 02, 2014]  By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO (Reuters)  Asian shares edged up and the dollar held slim gains amid expectations for an upbeat U.S. payrolls report later in the session, which could show the economy shaking off a severe winter.

The Asian markets drew scant impetus from Wall Street, which closed little changed ahead of the jobs report.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.4 percent. China's markets are closed on Friday.

Market focus is now on whether the April jobs report, which a Reuters survey of economists forecast to show U.S. employment rising at its fastest clip in five months, would be strong enough to decisively tilt sentiment towards the U.S. economy.

U.S. economic indicators have been a mixed batch so far this week, with first quarter GDP and construction spending falling short of expectations while consumer spending recorded its largest gain in more than 4-1/2 years in March and factory activity accelerated last month.

U.S. Treasuries rallied on Thursday, focusing more on weaker data that helped build expectations the Fed would be kept from raising short-term rates before second-half 2015 and perhaps even lead it to pause stimulus tapering.


The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield fell to a two-month low on Thursday, removing support for the dollar.

"After the weak GDP print, a strong non-farm payroll is unlikely to alter Fed rhetoric  therefore risk (equities and emerging markets) should rally, specifically in countries tied to the United States via trade," currency strategists at CitiFX wrote in a note to clients.

Tokyo's Nikkei stock average <.N225> bucked the trend, slipping 0.2 percent.

Concerns about slowing growth has depressed the Nikkei this year, which has underperformed many major markets after a record-breaking rally of over 50 percent in 2013 thanks to Tokyo's aggressive stimulus policies. <.T>

Dwindling expectations of fresh stimulus by the Bank of Japan have also weighed on sentiment, as Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has repeatedly insisted in recent weeks that the economy can weather the impact of the sales tax hike that took effect last month.

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"The BOJ's easing looks so distant now. I would think it's unlikely to take place this year," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.

The dollar stood little changed at 102.38 yen after posting a modest gain against the Japanese currency on Thursday. The euro was also flat, trading at $1.3860.

Sterling was at $1.6884, hovering near a five-year high of $1.6921 hit on Thursday after robust manufacturing data bolstered optimism in the British economy.

In the commodities markets, oil remained top-heavy after slipping Thursday on disappointing Chinese manufacturing activity and data showing U.S. crude stocks rose last week to their highest level since 1982. <O/R>

U.S. crude futures stood little changed at $99.47 a barrel.

London copper dipped and was on track to log its biggest weekly loss in seven weeks, weighed by the Fed's decision this week to continue tapering of its stimulus, which had provided the commodity markets with liquidity.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange edged down 0.3 percent to $6,624.75 a metric ton (1.1023 tons). Copper prices have dropped about 1.9 percent this week

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; editing by Eric Meijer)

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