Dollar regains swagger, Tokyo shares upbeat after US data

The dollar rose to a one-week high against the yen on Thursday, as a set of robust U.S. data and upbeat earnings from Bank of America helped offset concerns of a U.S. slowdown following December's disappointing payroll numbers.

Japan's Nikkei benchmark advanced 0.5 percent in relatively active trade after logging its best one-day rise in four months on Wednesday, a day after suffering its worst session in five months.

"We are getting a boost from both overseas and domestic cues. The market has started to take risks again, and as for sentiment towards the U.S. economy, a lot of people are thinking that the weak U.S. jobs data was a one-time incident," said Isao Kubo, equity strategist at Nissay Asset Management in Tokyo.

U.S. producer prices posted their biggest gain in six months in December as the cost of gasoline rebounded strongly, but inflation pressure remained generally benign.

Separately, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said the Empire State gauge of manufacturing in New York state jumped to its highest level in 20 months in January as new orders soared.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was largely flat, though Hong Kong stocks added 0.4 percent.

Australian shares climbed 1 percent, while the Aussie dollar fell to a 3-1/2 year low of $0.8797 after a weak employment report cast doubt on market perceptions that the Reserve Bank of Australia was done cutting rates.

Overnight, U.S. stocks gained, with the Standard & Poor's 500 climbing to an all-time closing high on the back of the economic data and strong quarterly earnings from Bank of America.

The second-largest U.S. bank said quarterly profit surged nearly $3 billion as revenue increased and mortgage losses plunged in the clearest sign yet the bank was shaking off the impact of the financial crisis.

"The news from Bank of America's fourth-quarter numbers suggest the U.S. earnings season is in for a solid beat," Evan Lucas, market strategist at financial spreadbetter IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note.

Other U.S. banks have also done well so far in the latest quarterly earnings season, with JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co both reporting better-than-expected results this week.

GLOBAL GROWTH

Adding to the positive tone, the World Bank raised its forecast for global growth for the first time in three years as advanced economies started to pick up their pace, led by the United States.

It predicted global gross domestic product will expand 3.2 percent this year from 2.4 percent in 2013.

Buoyed by the upbeat data, the dollar regained some of its swagger after being battered by the surprisingly weak nonfarm payroll report.

It gained 0.2 percent to 104.79 yen, adding to a 0.3 percent rise overnight and a far cry from a four-week low of 102.85 set on Monday.

In Japan, core machinery orders jumped in November for the second straight month of gains, a sign companies may ramp up investment to meet strong domestic demand.

Against the euro, the greenback was down a tad at $1.3618, having gained 0.3 percent overnight.

"We remain bullish on the USD and see scope for further downside in EUR/USD and GBP/USD in the near-term," BNP Paribas analysts wrote in a note.

The dollar was a touch softer against a basket of major currencies at 80.977, after rallying 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

Among commodities, gold was steady at $1,240.35 an ounce after having hit a near one-week low of $1,234.10 on Wednesday as the dollar rallied.

U.S. crude futures ticked up 0.1 percent to $94.23 a barrel, not far from a two-week high of $94.64 set in the previous day after U.S. government data showed a larger-than-expected drop in inventories.

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