Asian Shares Gain As Upbeat Global Data, Wall St Buoy Mood

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Encouraging global data and Wall Street's extended record run underpinning Asian shares on Thursday, with Japanese stocks leading the way to within striking distance of fresh five-year highs.

Passersby are reflected on an electronic board displaying the Yen's exchange rate against the dollar and the euro in Tokyo

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan up 0.1 pct, Nikkei opens 0.6 pct higher

* Euro steady vs dollar and yen

Encouraging global data and Wall Street's extended record run underpinning Asian shares on Thursday, with Japanese stocks leading the way to within striking distance of fresh five-year highs.

Global equities and the euro rose overnight, buoyed by strong Chinese trade data and signs that Germany may escape a sharp slowdown after the euro zone's largest economy said its industrial output unexpectedly rose in March, following a similarly surprising rise in industrial orders.

The upbeat data followed last Friday's strong U.S. payrolls, providing relief to markets rattled by a string of soft economic reports.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed at an all-time high for a fifth day on Wednesday while the Dow Jones industrial average ended at a record peak for a second straight day.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares finished at its highest closing level since mid-2008, while the euro zone's blue chip index marked a near two-year closing high.

"Japanese stocks have already been high and some investors have expressed concern against a short-term pull-back, but investor appetite was renewed after both U.S. and European stocks hit their record highs," said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities.

The Nikkei stock average rose 0.7 percent to 14,390.22, just off Wednesday's intrasession peak of 14,421.38, its highest level since June 2008.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent after climbing to its highest since August 2011 on Wednesday.

Australian shares were down 0.1 percent after touching a new peak since July 2008 the day before. South Korean shares opened 0.4 percent higher, with investors closely watching the outcome of the Bank of Korea's policy meeting due later in the session.

"All eyes are on the Bank of Korea. Rate cut will definitely come as a welcome news," said Kang Hyun-gie, a market analyst at IM Investment & Securities.

China will release its April inflation figures this session.

In the currency market, the euro remained resilient, trading steady against the dollar at $1.3155 and at 130.15 yen .

The dollar eased 0.1 percent against the yen at 98.88 yen .

"Everyone understands what the 'problem' with the Euro is but they can see that shorting it has been a graveyard trade," Kit Juckes, a Societe Generale strategist, said in a note to clients.

"Bad news is expected and priced in, the balance of payments isn't a negative and real rates are no lower than anywhere else. The result is that there is no conviction about the timing of Euro weakness."

U.S. crude futures were down 0.1 percent at $96.50 a barrel.

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