GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks supported; Nikkei hit by yen and data

* Sentiment supported as Wall St looks past soft US data

* Nikkei burdened by firmer yen, weaker economic figures

* China loan expansion seen as positive, US markets shut for holiday

SYDNEY, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Most Asian share markets edged higher on Monday in a nod to the resilience of Wall Street, but Japanese stocks struggled with both a stronger yen and a surprisingly weak reading on economic growth.

The Nikkei slipped 0.4 percent as the U.S. dollar a third of a yen to 101.47. A stronger yen is viewed as negative for Japanese exports and corporate profits, and often prompts knee-jerk selling in shares.

In contrast, a lower dollar tends to be positive for commodities priced in that currency, helping lift gold to a fresh three-month peak at $1,323.76. The dollar's losses were broad, with the euro firm at $1.3703.

Neither was the Nikkei helped by data showing Japan's economy grew just 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared to the previous quarter, confounding forecasts of a 0.7 percent gain.

The disappointing result will keep pressure on the Bank of Japan to support the economy once an increase in the sales tax goes through in April. The central bank's latest policy meeting ends on Tuesday and the market will be keen to see what it makes of the growth figures.

"We still have to see how much last-minute domestic demand ahead of the sales tax hike boosts January-March GDP before pondering whether extra fiscal and monetary stimuli are needed," said Junko Nishioka, chief economist at RBS Securities in Tokyo.

Share markets elsewhere in the region fared better, with South Korea adding 0.4 percent and Australia 0.3 percent . MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.35 percent, having bounced 5 percent in the previous seven sessions.

In that they were following Wall Street, where the Dow ended Friday up 0.79 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.48 percent. U.S. markets are closed Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday.

In energy markets, Brent oil futures added 23 cents on Monday to $109.31 a barrel, while U.S. crude firmed 34 cents to $100.64.


There was better news on China as data showed banks there disbursed the most loans in any month in four years in January, a surge that suggests the world's second-biggest economy may not be cooling as much as some fear.

Chinese banks made 1.32 trillion yuan ($218 billion) worth of new yuan loans in January, beating a 1.1 trillion yuan forecast and nearly three times December's level.

It is usual for loans to spike in January, when banks try to lend as much as they can to grab market share, but last month's surge was still the largest since January 2010.

The next hurdle will be HSBC's flash PMI survey of manufacturers for February later this week, given January's disappointing result sent ripples through global markets.

The same day has a rash of flash PMIs for Europe and the United States, along with U.S. inflation data.

Finance Ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 also start their meeting in Sydney on Thursday. Events run through to Sunday, when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, among others, gives a news conference.

Minutes of the February policy meeting of the Federal Reserve are due on Wednesday but are not expected to differ greatly from the steady outlook offered by Fed Chair Janet Yellen last week.

Yellen still has to appear before the Senate after her testimony was postponed due to bad weather, but no firm day has been set as yet.