* Dollar pressured as index probes nearly 4-month low
* Cool U.S. producer price inflation chills Fed rate hike bets
* Gold edges down but stays on track for hefty weekly rise
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, May 15 (Reuters) - Asian shares rose on Friday, on track for a solid weekly gain, as investors awaited more U.S. data later in the session for clues on the timing of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike.
Financial spreadbetters predicted a steady but lacklustre start to European trade, with Britain’s FTSE 100 seen opening between 1 point higher and 4 points lower, or flat in percentage terms.
Germany’s DAX was expected to open up between 5-10 points, or 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was seen opening flat.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7 percent, poised to gain about 1.3 percent for the week. Japan’s Nikkei stock index added 0.8 percent, marking a 1.8 percent weekly rise.
China stocks slumped after Xiao Gang, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said that the watchdog’s recent move to accelerate approvals for initial public offerings won’t have a big impact on the market - which some interpreted as a signal IPO activity could be stepped up further.
The CSI300 index fell 1.2 percent while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.1 percent, but both were on track for robust weekly gains.
On Wall Street, all three major indexes gained more than 1 percent, and the S&P 500 closed at a record after U.S. economic data painted an improving employment picture, but subdued producer price inflation quashed bets that the U.S. central bank would raise interest rates sooner rather than later this year.
“If we get a ‘wait and see’ approach in June, which seems likely at the moment, then the earliest the Fed can act in revising its forecasts upwards would be September, and it would be unusual to do that, and act on rates at the same meeting, which means the earliest we could get a move on rates now is either October, or December,” Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a note.
Friday’s slated U.S. releases include industrial production for April and the University of Michigan’s preliminary May reading on consumer sentiment.
The dollar was treading water, trying to stay afloat after sinking to a nearly four-month low on Thursday against a basket of rival currencies.
The dollar index edged down 0.1 percent to 93.547. It fell as low as 93.133 on Thursday, its lowest since late January, pressured by a resurgent euro, which scaled a nearly three-month peak of $1.1445. The common currency last stood at $1.1382, down about 0.2 percent from late U.S. levels.
The dollar was buying 119.53 Japanese yen, about 0.3 percent higher on the day.
Spot gold traded near a three-month high and was on track for its biggest weekly gain in four months on receding expectations of a U.S. hike, and as the greenback’s weakness made it more appealing to investors holding other currencies.
It was down about 0.2 percent on the day at $1,217.90 an ounce but was on track for a weekly rise of more than 2 percent.
“Gold’s break over the technical 200-day moving average of $1,218 triggered further buying from momentum investors,” said HSBC analyst James Steel.
Crude oil futures edged down but were set to end the week slightly higher, buoyed by the weaker dollar, forecasts of lower U.S. crude output, and a pick-up in global demand.
U.S. crude shed about 0.1 percent on the day to $59.80 a barrel but was on track to rise for a ninth week, which would be the benchmark’s longest winning streak since 1983.
Front-month Brent was down about 0.1 percent at $66.73. (Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Eric Meijer and Richard Borsuk)