April 17, 2019 / 6:43 AM / 4 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia comforted as China data hint at recovery

* Asian stock markets : tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

* China GDP grows 6.4 pct, industrial output surges in March

* Nikkei edges up to highest since December

* NZ dollar, bond yields dive on soft inflation data

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY, April 17 (Reuters) - Asian share markets pulled ahead on Wednesday as investors were relieved after a raft of Chinese data beat expectations in a sign Beijing's policy stimulus may finally be gaining traction in the world's second-largest economy.

Indications for Europe and Wall Street, however, suggested a mixed opening session. In early European trades, the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures and German DAX futures were mostly unchanged while London's FTSE futures was a shade weaker. E-minis for the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent.

Moves in Asian share markets were modest in part because they had already rallied hard since the start of the year.

Japan's Nikkei closed up 0.25 percent after hitting a five-month peak earlier in the day.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.2 percent to near its highest since July. China blue chips rose slight to stay just below their best levels since March last year.

Investors have been counting on better news from China and were not disappointed with first-quarter economic growth pipping forecast at 6.4 percent.

Importantly industrial output surged 8.5 percent in March from a year earlier, the fastest pace since July 2014 and well above forecasts of a 5.9 percent increase. Retail sales also pleased with a rise of 8.7 percent.

Investors reacted by buying the Australian dollar, often a liquid proxy for China plays, which pushed up 0.3 percent to a two-month top at $0.7206.

"This suggests that policy measures introduced by Chinese officials last year are now bearing fruit," said Rodrigo Catril, a senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.

"We had positive surprises on credit data and housing data last week and now GDP has come in better than expectations, which is building the case that a recovery is on the way," he added. "We see the revival of the Chinese economy as a necessary condition for an improvement in global growth outlook."

In currency markets, the greenback finally managed to top resistance on the yen at 112.13 to reach its highest since December at 112.16. It was last at 111.96.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was a tad weaker at 96.908 but still within the 95.00 to 97.70 range that has held for the past six months.

The euro edged up a touch to $1.1309, recovering from losses driven by a Reuters report that several European Central Bank policymakers think the bank's economic projections are too optimistic.

One currency on the move was the New Zealand dollar which sank as far as $0.6668 after annual consumer price inflation came in well below expectations at just 1.5 percent for the first quarter.

Yields on two-year bonds dived 9 basis points to 1.48 percent as investors wagered the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) would have to cut rates in response.

The improved Chinese data later gave it a helping hand back up to $0.6744.

In commodity markets, the general improvement in risk sentiment saw spot gold slip to its lowest for the year so far. It was last up 0.2 percent at $1,279.25 per ounce.

Oil prices were buoyed as fighting in Libya and falling Venezuelan and Iranian exports raised concerns over tightening global supply.

U.S. crude was last up 48 cents at $64.53 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 34 cents to $72.06.

Additional reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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