Asia stocks turn positive for year, dollar sags after Fed

TOKYO: Asian shares edged higher on Friday, turning positive for the year, while the US dollar weakened broadly after the Federal Reserve's cautious stance on further rate increases prompted investors to rebuild their bets on riskier assets.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.6 percent in early trade, entering positive territory for the year for the first time during Asian hours.

That echoed a recovery on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 Index .SPX gained 0.66 percent to close at its highest since Dec. 31, led by the materials and energy sectors.

Japanese shares bucked the trend as the dollar's fall against the yen is seen hurting the country's exporters, with the Nikkei .N225 dipping 0.4 percent.

The US dollar extended its broad slide triggered by Wednesday's Federal Reserve statement showing the U.S. central bank would raise rates at a slower pace than its previous forecast.

"The Fed was dovish in every respect. Its policy statement, comments from (Fed Chair Janet) Yellen and its economic projections," said Shuji Shirota, head of macro economics strategy group at HSBC in Tokyo.

The dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies .DXY =USD fell to a five-month low of 94.65 on Thursday. It last stood at 94.796.

The euro EUR= scaled a five-week high of $1.1342 and fetched $1.1318 in early Asian trade. The yen JPY= hit a 16-1/2-month high of 110.67 to the dollar and last traded at 111.38 yen.

Even the British pound GBP=D4, which has been dogged by worries about "Brexit" from the European Union, rose to a one-month high of $1.4504.

The Australian dollar AUD=D4 shot up to $0.7660, its highest in 8-1/2 months, helped by a recovery in commodity prices.

Oil prices soared, with US crude surging 5 percent on Thursday to pierce the $40 barrier, as the market was propped up by optimism that major producers may strike an output freeze deal next month.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producers led by Russia will meet on April 17 in the Qatar capital Doha, aiming for the first global supply deal in 15 years.

The front-month in US crude's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 extended gains on Friday to as high as $40.55 a barrel, its highest in more than three months, and last stood at $40.35, up 0.4 percent.

Brent crude's front-month LCOc1 reached the year's peak of $41.60 and was last at $41.48.

Copper CMCU3 also hit a four-month high of $5,075 a tonne while silver XAG= hit a 4-1/2-month high of $16.03 per ounce.