TOKYO – Asian shares inched up on Monday on hopes that Greece can avoid a near-term bankruptcy, with the market focusing on a euro zone finance ministers meeting later in the day, but a regional Spanish vote favoring separatist parties capped gains.
U.S. stock futures were down 0.3 percent, suggesting a soft Wall Street open, and European shares were seen falling, with financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100 , Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open down as much as 0.3 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 0.2 percent to a two-week high.
It marked the sixth consecutive day of advances and comes after the euro and global shares climbed on Friday on expectations that an agreement will be reached soon to disburse aid for Greece, and after a rise in Germany's Ifo business climate index.
"There is optimism around in regards to the euro area's ability to achieve a deal on Greece," said Emma Lawson, senior currency strategist at the National Australia Bank.
But worries about the Spanish vote and the implications for Madrid's push for fiscal austerity helped the euro slip 0.1 percent to $1.2960, pulling back from a three-week high of $1.2991 reached on Friday.
Against the yen, however, the single currency hit a seven-month peak of 107.13.
The yen was near a 7-1/2-month low of 82.84 yen to the dollar hit last week. It has been weakening on expectations of further monetary policy easing with the likely advent of a new Japanese government next month.
The dollar inched up 0.1 percent, after falling to a three-week low of 80.128 against a basket of major currencies on Friday as risk appetite gained.
Australian shares rose 0.2 percent on gains in energy and mining stocks, but Hong Kong and Shanghai shares eased slightly.
Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> gained 0.8 percent after rising to a seven-month high earlier on Monday on views that a weaker yen will boost earnings for exporters.
"Although some investors are cautious about the fast-paced gains in the Japanese market, they will likely stay buyers on the back of the improving trading environment in the global market," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities.
EUROPE HOLDS KEY
On Sunday, separatists in the Spanish region of Catalonia won an election but failed to get the resounding mandate they need to push convincingly for a referendum on independence.
The win heightens concerns about a potential negative impact on the Spanish economy and the country's finances, as Catalonia accounts for 20 percent of the economy and provides the most tax revenue to the central government.
"While the result helps tone down the risk of the government being forced to give more autonomy to Catalonia in its fiscal policy, the underlying discomfort the province may be feeling about its big fiscal burden may persist," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief FX strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.
He added that the result may weigh on the euro more when trading starts in Europe, where the euro's liquidity is far larger.
On Friday, European shares posted their best weekly gain so far this year on hopes for Greece and Germany's solid Ifo data, which followed firmer manufacturing reports from China and the United States released earlier last week.
London copper edged down 0.1 percent to $7,769.75 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) after rising for two weeks in a row. While signs of economic recovery in top consumer China helped support prices, China's official purchasing manufacturers' index due later in the week will be awaited for more confirmation of the trend.
"A positive PMI number should help a little bit, but we have not seen any significant improvement in the real economy yet," said Beijing-based metals analyst Wan Ling of commodities research house CRU Group.
The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index , a global commodities benchmark, rose to its highest close since October 23 on Friday -- its best weekly performance since mid-September with a 1.9 percent gain.
Spot gold eased 0.1 percent to $1,750.35 an ounce on Monday after rising above $1,750 for the first time in five weeks on Friday.
U.S. crude fell 0.5 percent to $87.88 a barrel and Brent eased 0.2 percent to $111.12.
Asian credit markets steadied, with the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index barely moved from Friday levels.
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo, Ian Chua in Sydney and Melanie Burton in Singapore; Editing by Edwina Gibbs & Kim Coghill)