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Asia tracks Wall Street higher, kiwi flies as central bank stands pat

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[TOKYO] Asian stocks edged up on Thursday after Wall Street gained overnight, while a weaker US dollar buoyed commodities such as gold and crude oil.

The New Zealand dollar took centre stage in early Asian trade, soaring to a one-year high as kiwi bulls were relieved after the nation's central bank kept interest rates steady as expected even as some in the market had wagered on a cut.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 per cent.

South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.2 per cent, while the Nikkei pulled back 0.3 per cent, weighed down by a stronger yen.

On Wall Street, the Dow gained 0.4 per cent overnight, rising above 18,000 for the first time since April as a weaker dollar lifted some commodity-related shares.

Investors have been stepping back into riskier assets globally over the past week after last Friday's worse-than-expected US non-farm jobs report. The data were seen as ensuring liquidity conditions in the United States would remain relatively loose for the time being amid reduced expectations of a near-term rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

The possibility the Fed would pass up the opportunity to raise rates in June or July has also hurt the US dollar.

The greenback traded at 106.91 yen, stuck near a one-month low of 106.35 hit on Monday in the wake of the weak US jobs report.

The euro stood close to a one-month peak of US$1.1411 scaled overnight, with the latest uptick coming after the European Central Bank began buying corporate debt for its bond purchase program in a bid to boost the euro zone economy.

The New Zealand dollar rallied roughly 1.5 per cent, hitting a one-year high of US$0.7139 after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held interest rates steady early on Thursday while retaining an easing bias.

The kiwi surged as not all in the market had expected the central bank to stand pat.

"We were surprised, we were calling for a rate cut. We still see one so the next opportunity is August. A key reason for that is persistent strength in the exchange rate," said Jane Turner, senior economist at ASB Bank.

"The Reserve Bank is relying on a lower New Zealand dollar to achieve their inflation target and based on where the exchange rate is now, they're not going to achieve that without cutting the cash rate further."

In commodities, US crude oil extended overnight gains to reach an 11-month high of US$51.67 a barrel. In addition to a weaker US dollar, supply worries caused by a sabotage of oil facilities in major producer Nigeria has boosted oil.

Spot gold advanced to a three-week high of US$1,266.01 an ounce, while aluminium climbed overnight to a one-month high of US$1,612.50 a tonne.

REUTERS