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GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. market closures contain gain by Asian shares

Chikako Mogi
Tuesday, 30 Oct 2012 | 6:38 AM ET

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan inches up 0.1 pct

* Oil falls as super storm Sandy reduces demand in U.S.

* BOJ eases, yen hits day's high vs dollar, Nikkei falls 1 pct

* US stock, bond markets closed Tuesday due to storm

* European shares likely to fall

TOKYO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Asian shares rose modestly but momentum was curbed by a giant, powerful storm that will keep U.S. markets shut, while the dollar slid to an intraday low against the yen after the Bank of Japan unveiled further easing steps.

The most notable market impact from Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, appeared to be felt in oil prices, which fell as forced closure of refineries reduced demand in the world's largest oil consumer.

Sandy pounded a dozen states from mid-Atlantic beaches to the Canadian border with wind and rain, bringing transportation to a halt, interrupting the presidential campaign and flooding the streets of New York City.

U.S. power company Exelon Corp on Monday declared an ``alert'' at its New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power reactor plant due to the storm, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. The alert is the second lowest of four NRC action levels.

``People can't go out, they can't use, they can't consume,'' said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of Barratt's Bulletin, a Sydney-based commodity research firm. ``Crude inventories are running pretty high, 11-12 percent above a 5-year average.''

U.S. crude futures slipped to just above $85 a barrel on Tuesday, near the lowest in more than three months, while Brent crude dropped below $109 as investors watched for any impact on markets from Sandy.

U.S. stock and bond markets will be closed again on Tuesday.

European shares will likely fall, with financial spreadbetters expecting London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX to open down about 0.3 percent. U.S. stock futures were down 0.6 percent.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent on a see-saw day during which it touched a fresh two-week low. Seoul and Taiwan equities led the gains.

Taiwan stocks climbed 1.3 percent, pulled higher by LCD and computer makers following positive earnings news, while South Korean shares closed up 0.4 percent after a fall below a key level spurred bargain hunters.

But Hong Kong shares dropped 0.7 percent, led by local developers on fears that new home-purchase restrictions will hurt demand. Shanghai shares were flat.

Japan's Nikkei average, up early in the day, turned negative and fell 1 percent to a two-week closing low, dragged down by the BOJ's easing announcement.

The yen jumped to the day's high against the dollar of 79.275 yen from around 79.93 before the BOJ decision, driven by an unwinding of positions built on excessive expectations for the BOJ, traders said.

The BOJ's move was largely in line with expectations, increasing its asset purchase scheme by 11 trillion yen ($138 billion) including 1 trillion yen in risk assets such as exchange-traded funds (ETF).

The weakness of the Japanese economy will likely keep the yen's underlying bear trend intact.

Data on Tuesday underscored the risk that the world's third-largest economy may slip into a mild recession.

Japanese household spending unexpectedly fell 0.9 percent in September from a year earlier, while industrial output plunged 4.1 percent in September from August, marking the biggest drop since the aftermath of last year's earthquake.

CHINA, INDIA IN FOCUS

Hong Kong-listed and Asia-focused Standard Chartered said in a third quarter trading update on Tuesday its operating profit so far this year rose by a mid-single digit rate, putting it on track for a 10th straight year of record earnings.

More in line with a global trend of weaker corporate results, Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine company, posted its slowest quarterly revenue growth in over two years. It forecast softer-than-expected growth this quarter, hurt by weaker sales as China's economic engine loses steam.

The world's largest money manager, BlackRock Inc, downplayed the impact of Europe's financial woes on commodities markets on Tuesday, and said robust Chinese demand and an improving U.S. economy will support growth. China is Australia's largest export market.

India's central bank left interest rates unchanged on Tuesday but cut the cash reserve ratio for banks and hinted at further easing in the January-March quarter, although inflation remains a near-term concern. The bank had faced growing expectations for a rate cut after India's finance minister pledged to rein in the country's fiscal deficit.

India's main stock index turned negative and deepened losses to slide 0.8 percent after the decision, while the Indian rupee weakened against the dollar after the central bank decision.

The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.2890, capped by political jitters in debt-laden Italy and the uncertain bailout outlook for struggling Spain and Greece.

Asian credit markets were lacklustre, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index wider by 2 basis points.