October 31, 2018 / 12:36 AM / 17 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks tentative after a merciless Oct for global equities

* MSCI Asia-Pacific index up 0.05 pct, Nikkei rises 0.5 pct

* Wall St bounce helps, but trade war woes linger

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Asian stocks pulled away from 20-month lows to eke out small gains on Wednesday, thanks to a rebound on Wall Street though investors remained cautious after a torrid October month that saw trillions of dollars wiped out of global equity markets.

A confluence of factors from Sino-U.S. trade tensions to worries about U.S. corporate earnings to the end of easy money in development economies have spurred volatility in financial markets in the past few weeks.

Anxiety that global growth might be rapidly losing momentum has been at the centre of the market ructions. Early Asian trade on Wednesday suggested investor sentiment remained fragile.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.05 percent, but it was still on track to fall roughly 11 percent this month.

The index had dropped to its lowest level since February 2017 on Monday as worries over corporate profits weighed heavily on U.S. equities.

Wall Street's three stock indexes jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday, helped by strong gains for chip and transport stocks as investors took advantage of cheaper prices following the steep recent pullback for equities.

Australian stocks edged up 0.1 percent, South Korea's KOSPI rose 0.35 percent and Japan's Nikkei advanced 0.5 percent.

"The recent slide in equities had gone to such an extent that it was bound to invite buyers, such as in the Japanese stock market," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.

The MSCI World index has lost about 8.50 percent of its value so far in October, evaporating a whopping $4.5 trillion in just one month, according to analysis by Kyle Rodda, analyst at IG in Melbourne.

Ichikawa at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management said the outlook for markets was still cloudy, adding that the U.S.-China trade row will "likely to remain a factor of concern beyond the U.S. midterm elections."

U.S. President Donald Trump said during an interview with Fox News late on Monday that he thought there could be an agreement with China on trade. But he also said he had billions of dollars worth of new tariffs ready to be imposed if a deal was not possible.

In currencies, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was near a 16-month peak of 97.02 scaled overnight after data showed U.S. consumer confidence rose to an 18-year high in October, suggesting strong economic growth could persist in the near term.

The dollar rose to a three-week high of 113.20 yen.

Immediate focus for the yen was on the Bank of Japan's policy decision due later in the day.

Later on Wednesday, the BOJ is set to keep monetary policy steady and maintain its optimistic view on the economic outlook, even as global trade frictions, growth worries and volatile markets put it further away from achieving its elusive inflation target.

The euro was little changed at $1.1346 after losing 0.25 percent the previous day. A dip below $1.1336 would take the single currency to its lowest since mid-August.

China's yuan was a shade weaker at 6.9727 per dollar in offshore trade and in close range of a 21-month low of 6.9770 brushed on Tuesday.

The yuan has been pressured by worries about slowing Chinese economic growth and a potential sharp escalation in the U.S.-China trade war, falling this week to its lowest level in a decade in onshore trading.

Oil prices recovered slightly after dropping to multi-month lows the previous day on signs of rising supply and concern that global economic growth and demand for fuel will fall victim to the U.S.-China trade war.

U.S. crude futures was up 0.46 percent at $66.49 per barrel after dropping to $65.33 on Tuesday, their lowest since mid-August. (Additional reporting by Swati Pandey in Sydney Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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