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Asian stocks muted, Europe shows more life

04/29/2014 | 02:56am US/Eastern

Asian share markets put in an indecisive performance on Tuesday as caution ahead of some major events this week overshadowed a late rally on Wall Street, though futures pointed to opening gains for European stocks.

The Eurostoxx 50 contract was up 0.5 percent, while the FTSE rose 0.3 percent and the DAX 0.7 percent. Deutsche Bank reported a 30 percent drop in profit but still managed to beat forecasts.

Among currencies, the euro made promising progress on the yen and Australian dollar even as a holiday in Tokyo sapped market liquidity elsewhere.

Activity in Asia had been very much muted with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan drifting off 0.25 percent.

Australia's market did hit a six-year peak early, only to run into profit-taking ahead of earnings results from the major local banks.

In South Korea, Samsung Electronics slipped 2 percent after reporting its second straight fall in quarterly profit as weakness in flat-screen panels and the maturing high-end smartphone business weighed on earnings.

The company held out the hope that the football World Cup in Brazil would help boost sales of screens and smartphones as fans invest in fancy gadgets to watch the action.

In contrast, shares in competitor LG Electronics jumped almost 4 percent after its operating profit rose 44 percent on a year earlier as growth in sales of high-end TV models helped offset losses from its handset business.

After an erratic performance on Tuesday, Wall Street had mostly ended in the black. The Dow firmed 0.53 percent and the S&P 500 0.32 percent. The Nasdaq finished flat amid falls in Amazon and Facebook.

The gains owed much to the M&A fever in pharmaceuticals after Pfizer Inc said it approached AstraZeneca Plc to reignite a potential $100 billion bid.

ECB IN NO HURRY

The potential, albeit distant, that Pfizer might need pounds to pay for the bid gave speculators a reason to go long on sterling. The currency climbed to a four-and-a-half year peak on the dollar at $1.6856 before fading to $1.6813.

The euro followed the pound higher to as far as $1.3879, aided in part by a Reuters report playing down the chance of any near-term easing in euro zone monetary policy.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told lawmakers from Germany's ruling coalition on Monday that low inflation would persist but quantitative easing remains some way off, according to a source who took part in the meeting.

On Tuesday, the euro was holding at $1.3866 and still well within the $1.3783/$1.3905 band that has held for the last couple of weeks. It did manage to break chart resistance on both the yen and Australian dollar which could open the way to further gains.

The dollar was hovering at 102.54 yen as investors waited to see if this week's Federal Reserve policy meeting or U.S. jobs data provided the impetus to break the range.

The Bank of Japan holds its policy meeting on Wednesday, while a raft of economic data are due over the next few days including euro zone inflation and GDP from the UK and U.S.

In commodity markets, Brent crude oil added 21 cents to $108.33 a barrel, but that followed a drop over a dollar on Monday when Libya paved the way to restart exports at a second port after a deal with rebels to unblock major terminals.

U.S. crude gained 18 cents to $101.02 a barrel.

Spot gold faded to $1,295.11 an ounce after failing to break resistance around $1,306.00.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

By Wayne Cole

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