Asia shares rise on Fed, China policy speculation

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares were tentatively higher on Wednesday after Wall Street rebounded on speculation the Federal Reserve would maintain a pledge on low rates when a two-day policy meeting ends later in the session.

The Dow hit a fresh record while the U.S. dollar took a knock after the Wall Street Journal's Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath said the central bank would keep the words "considerable time" in its policy statement, though it might qualify them.

The phrase has become a touchstone in markets for when the Fed might start raising interest rates and dropping it would be taken as a hawkish step.

Dealers said commodities were also boosted by reports that China's central bank would provide 500 billion yuan in short-term funding to the country's top five banks.

China's money rates opened sharply lower on the reports, which fueled market hopes Beijing was ready to add more stimulus given recent weakness in housing, imports and industrial output.

The CSI300 of the leading Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings rose 0.5 percent, regaining a little of Tuesday's sharp decline. Tokyo's Nikkei put on 0.1 percent, while South Korea gained 0.7 percent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rallied 0.8 percent after a run of losses.

Wall Street had ended strongly in the wake of the Fed talk, with the Dow gaining 0.59 percent, the S&P 500 0.75 percent and the Nasdaq 0.75 percent.

Bond investors were more guarded and yields on two-year Treasury debt dipped a slim 2 basis points to 0.54 percent. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note was little moved at 2.59 percent.

Currencies were ruffled with the U.S. dollar losing a little of its recent gains. The dollar index eased back to 84.112, from a 84.372 top on Tuesday.

The dollar faded to 107.15 yen from 107.34, while the euro inched up to $1.2955 from a trough of $1.2921.

Sterling continued to be shoved around as opinion polls showed the vote on Scottish independence was too close to call.

Three surveys - from pollsters ICM, Opinium and Survation - showed support for Scottish independence at 48 percent compared to 52 percent backing union.

The pound flew from $1.6163 to $1.6306 on Tuesday, before steadying at $1.6260 in Asia.

In commodities, copper futures firmed 0.4 percent aided by the report on Chinese banks and the slight dip in the dollar. Spot gold was a shade firmer at $1,236.70 an ounce.

Oil prices eased a touch after bouncing on Tuesday as speculation grew of a supply cut from OPEC. [O/R]

Early Wednesday, Brent crude was off 15 cents at$98.90 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures fell 7 cents to $94.81 per barrel.


(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)