* MSCI Asia ex-Japan steady
* Nikkei logs longest winning streak in 54 yrs
* China official PMI slightly undershoots forecast
* Euro, oil, copper firmer; dollar index hits 1-month low;
* U.S. nonfarm payrolls due 1330 GMT
* European shares seen inching higher
By Chikako Mogi
TOKYO, Feb 1 Asian shares were on the defensive
on Friday after a series of surveys on factory output signalled
a tough outlook for the region's manufacturers, though Japanese
equities were a notable exception, logging their longest winning
run in 54 years on a weaker yen.
European markets are likely to inch higher, with financial
spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100, Paris's
CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX would open up as
much as 0.2 percent.
A 0.3 percent rise in U.S. stock futures suggested a
firmer open on Wall Street.
Several surveys on Friday suggested Asia's manufacturers
face a challenging business climate in the coming months, with
China's vast factory sector managing only a shallow rebound at
the start of 2013 as feeble foreign demand dragged on sales.
Two separate surveys of China's purchasing managers' index
(PMI) showed that factory output in the world's second-biggest
economy rose in January, but the pace of the revival in activity
China's official PMI logged a reading of 50.4, easing from
December's 50.6 and below forecasts for a nine-month high of
50.9. A separate private sector PMI released by HSBC, however,
rose to a two-year high of 52.3.
"It seems new orders for exports have declined even when new
orders overall rose, suggesting that infrastructure spending and
other investment to spur domestic demand is needed to keep
(China's) economy growing," said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at
research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory.
"But it's not going to change the view about the Chinese
economy recovering. The official data was just neither good nor
Other PMI releases showed manufacturing growth slowed or
stalled in India and South Korea, while factories in Indonesia
said business shrank in January from December for the first time
in eight months.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside
Japan was little changed by mid-afternoon after
swinging up and down 0.2 percent during the day. It was set for
a weekly gain of 0.6 percent and 2.6 percent so far this year.
A 0.9 percent jump to a 21-month high in resources-reliant
Australian shares helped the pan-Asian index out of the
negative territory, but weak Hong Kong shares capped the
The commodity-linked Australian dollar fell 0.3
percent to session lows around $1.0382.
"Australia is a high-yielding country and there are a lot of
foreign funds coming here and that is supporting the market,"
said Macquarie Equities division director Lucinda Chan.
Investors' focus now turns to the U.S. nonfarm payrolls
report, which will likely show a rise of 160,000 jobs and the
jobless rate staying steady at 7.8 percent.
Manufacturing purchasing managers' indexes from the United
States and the euro zone, as well as the Institute for Supply
Management's manufacturing index, are also due later in the
The euro added 0.3 percent to $1.3623 to the dollar, after
earlier reaching a fresh 14-month high of $1.3634. The
common currency's strength has pushed the dollar index to a
one-month low of 79.078.
"The euro revival looks set to continue for some time, as
investors return to euro zone bond markets, content with the
combination of the European Central Bank backstop for sovereign
risk and low inflation danger due to lack of economic growth.
The dollar bloc looks to be a key loser in the portfolio
reallocation back into EUR," Westpac bank said in a note.
YEN STILL UNDER PRESSURE, NIKKEI SHINES
Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock average closed at a
fresh 33-month high, bolstered by the yen's decline to new lows,
and logged its 12th straight week of gains, the longest run of
weekly gains since 1959. The benchmark index rose 0.5 percent.
The dollar advanced further against the yen, up 0.6 percent
to 92.25 yen, having earlier hit its highest since June
2010 of 92.27. The euro extended gains, soaring 1 percent to its
highest since April 2010 of 125.75.
The yen also plunged to its lowest since August 2008 against
both the Australian dollar, at 95.84 yen, and against
the New Zealand dollar at 77.58 yen.
"The yen selling is seen as a safe bet because Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe has not faltered on his election pledge
about beating deflation, highlighting the government's resolve,"
said Kimihiko Tomita, head of forex at State Street in Tokyo.
Oil and copper prices firmed and the euro extended gains
against the dollar, reflecting a recent trend of improving
sentiment across asset classes, underpinned by easing stress in
the euro zone and a generally positive global economic outlook.
"Chinese data should get stronger into the second quarter.
Global indicators are improving, so it makes sense to a certain
extent that speculators are taking another look at copper," said
analyst Bonnie Liu of Macquarie in Singapore.
London copper added 0.6 percent to $8,213.50 a
U.S. crude futures inched up 0.1 percent to $97.56 a
barrel while Brent hit its highest in over three months