Asian shares retreat after China PMI, U.S. payrolls eyed

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares wiped earlier gains on Friday as a tepid Chinese manufacturing report dented sentiment, leaving investors on tenterhooks ahead of U.S. nonfarm payroll data due at 1330 GMT.

China's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) eased to 50.4 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, missing market expectations for a rise and underscoring the fragility of the recovery from the economy's weakest year since 1999.

But a separate private survey showed that growth in China's giant manufacturing sector hit a two-year high in January as domestic demand strengthened, underlining hopes the nation's economic recovery is slowly gaining momentum.

"It seems new orders for exports have declined even when new orders overall rose, suggesting that infrastructure spending and other investment to spur domestic demand is needed to keep (China's) economy growing," said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory.

"But it's not going to change the view about the Chinese economy recovering. The official data was just neither good nor bad."

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> slipped 0.2 percent from the morning's 0.2 percent gain.

Australian shares <.axjo> were up 0.6 percent, little changed from before the data came out, drawing support from major mining stocks which gained on a jump in iron ore prices.

But the resources-linked Australian dollar fell 0.2 percent to session lows around $1.040.

With Chinese data news done for the day, investors turned to the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which is forecast to show a rise of 160,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to remain steady at 7.8 percent.

U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday on caution ahead of the jobs report, but the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> posted its best monthly gain since October 2011 with a 5.1 percent rise and the best January showing since 1997.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock average <.n225> outperformed its Asian peers with a 0.2 percent rise, supported by the yen's decline earlier to fresh lows against major currencies.<.t/>

The dollar steadied around 91.75 yen, having earlier risen as high as 91.87, a level not seen since June 2010. The euro touched 125.05, its highest since May 2010. In January alone, the common currency surged nearly 9 percent on the yen, while the dollar was up more than 5 percent.

Oil and copper prices were higher and the euro remained bid against the dollar, reflecting that jitters was not spreading beyond Asian equities as sentiment has recently been underpinned by falling stress in the euro zone and generally improved data globally.

The euro added 0.3 percent to $1.3613 to the dollar, after earlier reaching a fresh 14-month high of $1.3624. The common currency's strength has pushed the dollar index to a one-month low of 79.107 <.dxy> on Friday.

"The euro revival looks set to continue for some time, as investors return to euro zone bond markets, content with the combination of the European Central Bank backstop for sovereign risk and low inflation danger due to lack of economic growth. The dollar bloc looks to be a key loser in the portfolio reallocation back into EUR," Westpac bank said in a note.

U.S. crude futures inched up 0.1 percent to $97.56 a barrel while Brent rose 0.3 percent to $115.90.

London copper added 0.5 percent to $8,203 a tonne.

Earlier, a private survey showed South Korea's manufacturing sector activity marginally shrank in January after a small rise in December but new export orders grew for the first time in eight months.

Manufacturing purchasing managers' indexes from the United States and the euro zone, as well as the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index, are also due later in the session.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)

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