GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares near 2-wk highs, dollar firm ahead of U.S. data


* Asian stock markets :

* MSCI ex-Japan reverse early losses, Chinese shares turn positive

* U.S. dollar stays firm, euro slips

* Gold near $ 1,900, oil weak

By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY, May 27 (Reuters) – Asian shares reversed early losses on Thursday and hovered near two-week highs while the dollar held at a one-week top as investors awaited key U.S. data to gauge whether inflationary pressures were transient or signalled a more durable turn.

The monthly U.S. personal consumption report is due out on Friday while U.S. gross domestic product and jobless claims numbers are expected later in the day.

In a sign of a tentative start for overseas markets, Eurostoxx 50 futures, futures for Germany’s DAX and those for London’s FTSE were all flat in late Asian trading. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.1%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last at 695.73, not too far from Wednesday’s high of 696.76, a level last seen on May 10.

Chinese shares, which had started in the red turned around in late afternoon session with the blue-chip index up 0.3%.

Australian shares were slightly higher while New Zealand’s benchmark index ended 0.8% lower, extending losses for a second day in a row after the country’s central bank on Wednesday signalled rate rises from next year.

Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.3%.

Global equities markets have been supported by a concerted effort from major central banks who have pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets since last year while reiterating their lower-for-longer interest rate stance.

Earlier this week, U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida said he believed recent inflation pressures would “prove to be largely transitory,” though he did add that policymakers will be at a point to begin discussing tapering in upcoming meetings.

However, remarks from the Fed Vice Chair for supervision, Randal Quarles, suggested that at some stage it will become important for the U.S. central bank to discuss plans to tighten its asset purchase programme.

“Inflation still tops the list of concerns amongst our client base, but it very well could be that this theme is now starting to be priced in,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.

“On whether or not inflation will be transitory, the reassurances from the Fed over the past week on this topic have been helpful, but also in Europe we’ve seen several ECB officials highlight that high inflation is unlikely to persist and hence no change in monetary policy is needed yet.”

The euro fell to $ 1.2173, declining for a second straight session after the European Central Bank’s (ECB) Executive Board’s Director, Fabio Panetta said it was too early to taper its emergency bond buying programme.

The single currency was last at $ 1.2194.

The dollar index rose to a one-week top of 90.152.

The New Zealand dollar was among the best performing currencies overnight. On Thursday, it retreated from a three-month top of $ 0.7317 to be last as $ 0.7292.

In commodities, gold prices hovered near $ 1,900 per ounce, after hitting its highest since Jan. 8 at $ 1,912.50.

Oil prices were weaker with Brent off 28 cents at $ 68.59 a barrel and U.S. crude down 33 cents at $ 65.99 a barrel.

(Editing by Lincoln Feast & Shri Navaratnam)