December 27, 2018 / 7:30 AM / 3 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Wall Street surge brings relief to battered equity markets

* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* Trump administration official says Fed chief Powell's job is safe

* Nikkei up 3.9 pct, Australia's ASX 200 gains 1.9 pct

* Dollar/yen dips after rising most since April overnight

* Gold hovers below 6-month highs

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Asian shares on Thursday rode a dramatic surge on Wall Street as markets, battered by a recent drum roll of deepening political and economic gloom, cheered upbeat U.S. data and the Trump administration's effort to shore up investor confidence.

In a buying frenzy as spectacular as the recent rout, U.S. stocks soared with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketing more than 1,000 points for the first time on Wednesday.

That helped push MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan up 0.6 percent and away from eight-week lows.

European shares are set to open higher as markets reopen after the Christmas break, with early indications from London's FTSE and Frankfurt's DAX pointing to gains of 0.6 to 0.7 percent.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were last down 0.5 percent.

Japan's Nikkei managed to pull out of bear market territory it had entered on Tuesday, closing 3.9 percent higher, while Australian shares jumped 1.9 percent.

Chinese shares did not join Asia's rebound. The blue-chip index was down 0.4 percent, as was Hong Kong's Hang Seng index.

There was no single trigger for the overnight relief rally on Wall Street, though a Mastercard Inc report that sales during the U.S. holiday shopping season rose the most in six years in 2018 helped allay concerns about the health of the U.S. economy.

There were also some attempts by the White House to temper its broadside against the Federal Reserve. Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Wednesday that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's job was not in jeopardy.

His comments came days after President Donald Trump described the Fed as the "only problem" in the U.S. economy after the central bank last week raised rates for the fourth time this year, and retained plans for more hikes in 2019.

A U.S. government shutdown, concerns over slower global growth and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin convening a crisis group following the sharp sell-off in equities have also rattled investors.

"There is a question which is starting to unfold, whether this is a bear market rally or whether this is something more sustainable," said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.

"We probably got another 3 to 5 percent in these market rallies before we see people looking to fade into this."

Faced with deepening gloom, investors were quick to lap up media reports that a U.S. trade team will travel to Beijing the week of Jan. 7 to hold talks with Chinese officials.

"I think worries regarding the U.S. government shutdown as well as lack of clarity over whether the U.S.-Sino negotiations (over trade) will go well or not still remain," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the Trump administration is considering an executive order in the new year to declare a national emergency that would bar U.S. companies from using Huawei and ZTE products.

Not all signs were positive overnight, with the Fed's Bank of Richmond's manufacturing index giving investors a reminder of the underlying global risks. The index fell the most on record, Refinitiv data going back to 1994 showed.

The weak figures rekindled fears that Sino-U.S. trade tensions are weighing on U.S. producers, and came days before the release of the Chicago purchasing managers index at the end of the week.

OIL IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Oil also caught investors' attention after U.S. crude and Brent overnight both marked their largest single-day rises since late November 2016.

U.S. crude on Wednesday rallied almost 8.7 percent, while Brent jumped more than 8.8 percent in a partial rebound from steep losses that pushed crude benchmarks to lows not seen since last year.

U.S. crude was last trading 0.4 percent lower at $46.06 a barrel, while Brent gave up 0.3 percent at $54.30 a barrel.

"If we can see oil prices moving up in the low end of the range, which is around $49 to $50, then we'll continue to see equities moving higher," said Pepperstone's Weston.

As investors moved back into riskier assets overnight, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields rose and last stood at 2.786 percent, about 6.5 basis point off their lowest since April hit in Asian trading on Wednesday.

The dollar gave up some of its overnight gains, but the losses were limited.

Against the yen, a perceived safe haven, the dollar was last off 0.3 percent at 111.08 yen. It had risen nearly 1 percent overnight, booking its largest single-day gain against the yen since late April.

The greenback was also on the back foot against the euro and the British pound, losing about 0.2 percent against both currencies, to $1.1386 and $1.2658, respectively.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 96.826.

In commodity markets, gold remained below a six-month peak hit during the previous session. Spot gold was flat at $1,268.00, as earlier gains were shed as investors ventured back into riskier assets. (Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Richard Borsuk)

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