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Asia stocks near 2-mth highs as China GDP calms hard-landing fears

 (Reuters) – Asian shares held near two-month highs on Monday as a batch of Chinese data showed the world’s second-largest economy slowing further but not in danger of a hard-landing.

Some emerging market currencies trimmed early losses after China’s third quarter gross domestic product data showed the economy growing slightly faster than market expectations at 6.9 percent.

Adding to optimism are growing bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve would delay its first rate hike since 2006 to next year, encouraging investors to hunt for bargains in Asian equities.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan bounced around in a tiny range on Monday in the wake of the China data. It was last up 0.1 percent and on track for its best monthly performance since Feb 2012.

Japanese shares edged 0.5 percent lower while Australia’s rose 0.1 percent. Chinese stocks rose 0.5 percent while Hong Kong shares slipped 0.3 percent.

"Some investors were caught on the wrong side with the Chinese data and there is some broad short covering but the in-line data means that we are unlikely to get any immediate stimulus being announced so markets are likely to trade sideways," said a trader at a U.S. bank in Hong Kong.

In a further sign of encouragement for Asian equities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch flow data indicates that emerging market equity funds saw inflows from the first time in three months.

Within Asia, investors have piled into the more cyclical sectors such as industrials, consumer discretionary and information technology shares at the expense of staples and healthcare sectors in recent days, indicating renewed investor optimism.

The CBOE volatility index, often seen as a gauge of investors’ fears in Wall Street shares, fell to a two-month low of 15.05 percent.

"Compared to some time ago, more people think things are starting to look up. Yet there remain concerns on the outlook of the global economy," said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.





In the currency market, the dollar held firm against a basket of six other major currencies, after U.S. industrial production data and as the euro and the yen were capped by speculation of more money printing.

The dollar’s index stood at 94.607, on track to extend its rebound from its seven-week low of 93.806 hit on Thursday.

The euro was at $1.1367, little changed on the day but off Thursday’s high of $1.1495.

The yen traded at 119.27 yen to the dollar, off its seven-week peak of 118.065.

In commodities, prices stabilized after a recent rise as investors took profits from recent gains.

Oil prices edged up in early trade on Monday, extending a rebound on Friday after almost a week of decline.

Brent futures were $50.59 per barrel, up 0.3 percent from late U.S. levels last week. A 19-commodity Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB Index edged higher.

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