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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares struggle, euro near 1-week high ahead of ECB

Dominic Lau
Thursday, 7 Nov 2013 | 1:17 AM ET

* Asian shares fall ahead of U.S. Q3 GDP, Tokyo also slips

* Euro holds near 1-week high vs dollar, ECB meeting on Thurs

* Friday jobs data may have clues to Fed view on stimulus

TOKYO, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Asian stocks struggled on Thursday as investors waited for stimulus-sensitive U.S. payroll data, although the euro perked up ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting.

The Australian dollar fell after a weak labour force report showed a big fall in full-time employment -- undermining a popular view that the Reserve Bank of Australia has finished cutting interest rates.

Financial bookmakers expect major European indexes to ease as much as 0.2 percent.

All eyes will be on Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls data for a chance to gauge when the Federal Reserve might begin winding down its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme, which is linked to falling unemployment.

Before that, investors will look to the first reading of U.S. third-quarter GDP data later on Thursday. Economists surveyed by Reuters forecast a 2.0 percent annualised rate of growth compared with 2.5 percent in the second quarter.

"Buying is paused now as investors are looking for fresh macro cues," said Isao Kubo, equity strategist at Nissay Asset Management.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.4 percent after ending flat on Wednesday to break a four-day run of losses.

Japan's Nikkei share average dropped 0.8 percent.

The euro hovered near a one-week high against the dollar as strong German data prompted investors to scale back expectations of an ECB rate cut at its policy meeting later in the global day.

"Had the PMIs stepped down sharply, the ECB could have justified a cut, especially given last week's inflation print," analysts at JPMorgan wrote in a note.

"The recent data enables them to wait till December and announce the rate cut as part of their broader inflation/growth forecasting exercise."

The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.3527, having risen 0.3 percent on Wednesday on the slight shift in expectations.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was little changed after falling 0.2 percent in the previous session.

The euro was also aided by new research papers from two top Fed economists calling for the U.S. central bank to drive down unemployment by promising to hold interest rates lower for longer.

That helped drive U.S. stocks firmer overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average at a record high, while the S&P 500 index closed shy of its own record. U.S. S&P E-mini futures dipped 0.1 percent in Asian trade on Thursday.

AUSSIE JOBS DISAPPOINT

Australian shares edged down 0.2 percent as index heavyweights National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd traded ex-dividend.

The Australian dollar shed 0.5 percent to $0.9483 after news just 1,100 net new jobs were created in October, with a severe fall in full-time places.

Among commodities, U.S. crude prices steadied at around $94.7 a barrel after gaining 1.7 percent on Wednesday from four-month lows on an unexpectedly large fall in U.S. fuel supplies.

"Overall, we will see oil and other markets trade in a tight range today as everybody is waiting for ECB's interest rate decision and US GDP numbers," said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at OptionsXpress in Sydney.

Gold was also steady, at just below $1,319 an ounce, pausing after gaining 0.5 percent overnight.