March 6, 2019 / 3:34 AM / 21 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks tentative, waiting for fresh U.S.-China trade cues

* Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* MSCI Asia-Pacific index effectively flat, Nikkei sheds 0.5 pct

* Dollar firm after strong U.S. non-manufacturing activity data

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO, March 6 (Reuters) - Asian stocks clung to narrow ranges on Wednesday as investors awaited fresh clues on the progress of U.S.-China trade negotiations, with a weaker Wall Street finish capping broader gains.

Robust U.S. economic data supported the dollar, but its Australian counterpart slid after data showed the economy slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.05 percent, while Japan's Nikkei declined 0.6 percent.

The Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.3 percent as China's state planner said the government will boost domestic consumption further this year. Beijing announced billions of dollar in tax cuts and infrastructure spending on Tuesday to reduce the risk of a sharper economic slowdown.

Australian stocks added 0.7 percent as mining stocks climbed on the prospect of increased Chinese stimulus.

Wall Street dipped on Tuesday as a drop in General Electric shares countered positive retailer earnings and investors eyed a key resistance level for the benchmark S&P 500 after the market's run to a five-month peak on Monday.

A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed U.S. non-manufacturing sector companies in February placing the most new orders since August 2005, an indicator of robust health.

"In the short term, the equity markets will likely focus on positive factors such as the strong U.S. ISM data," said Soichiro Monji, senior economist at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo.

"Steady U.S. growth is a stronger theme than slowing Chinese growth, especially with Sino-U.S. trade talks seemingly headed for some kind of a conclusion."

Beijing revealed at the annual meeting of its parliament on Tuesday that it is targeting economic growth of 6.0 to 6.5 percent in 2019, less than the 6.6 percent gross domestic product growth reported last year.

On the trade front, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he thought the United States and China were "on the cusp" of a deal to end their trade war. Pompeo added on Tuesday that "Things are in a good place, but it's got to be right."

In the currency market, the dollar held gains after rising against its peers on Tuesday's upbeat ISM non-manufacturing sector report.

The dollar was a touch lower at 111.775 yen after going as high as 112.135 overnight, its strongest since Dec. 20.

The euro was little changed at $1.1298 following a decline of 0.3 percent the previous day, when it plumbed a two-week trough of $1.1289.

The Australian dollar was hit after data showed the economy expanded 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, slower than the 0.3 percent increase economists had forecast in a Reuters poll. The Aussie was down 0.6 percent at $0.7042 following a slip to a two-month trough of $0.7035.

U.S. crude oil futures were down 1 percent at $56.03 per barrel after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, showed a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Brent crude eased 0.85 percent to $65.31 per barrel. ( Editing by Sam Holmes & Kim Coghill)

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