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Euro jolted briefly by Spanish vote, Asia data augur well

By Wayne Cole

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The euro took a brief knock in Asia on Monday as investors kept an anxious eye on an independence vote in Spain's Catalonia, although surprisingly strong economic news out of China and Japan offered support to equities and commodities.

The euro fell around a third of a U.S. cent after the violence-marred vote to as low as $1.1776 in early Asian trade but soon steadied at $1.1800. Liquidity was very thin with Chinese and Sydney markets on holiday.

Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to thwart an independence vote in Catalonia on Sunday in a show of force that left hundreds injured, according to Catalan officials, and presented Madrid with a huge challenge to calm tensions in the region.

The situation was fluid, with the head of the regional government opening the door to a potential declaration of independence from Spain.

Dealers emphasized there had been no real selling of euros as yet and neither was there any flow to safe havens, with investors reserving judgment.

As a result, the dollar was firmer on the Japanese yen at 112.64 and up a shade against a basket of currencies at 93.182. Gold was quiet at $1,277.00.

Asian shares were in for a better day after upbeat economic data from China, Japan and South Korea augured well for a sustained pickup in global growth.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.24 percent, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.14 percent.

Australia's main index jumped 1.1 percent, while Japan's Nikkei inched up 0.1 percent after a survey of manufacturers produced the strongest sentiment reading since 2007.

China's manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace since 2012 in September as factories cranked up output to take advantage of strong demand and high prices.

The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) released on Saturday rose to 52.4 in September, from 51.7 in August.

"This was the first time new orders beat output this year, suggesting a potential 'excess demand' to some extent," wrote analysts at ANZ in a note.

"It also provides upside risk for Q3 GDP and our forecast of 6.7 percent for 2017."

Higher memory chip and steel product sales helped South Korea's exports surge 35 percent year-on-year to a record in September, notching the longest stretch of expansion since 2011.

China's central bank also cut the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves for the first time since February 2016 in a bid to encourage more lending to struggling smaller firms and energize its lacklustre private sector.

All of which was considered positive for commodity demand. Copper enjoyed its fifth consecutive quarterly gain on expectations of strong demand from top metals consumer China.

Three-month copper rose a further 0.9 percent on Monday to stand at $6,542 a tonne. [MET/L]

In oil markets, Brent boasted its strongest third-quarter price performance since 2004 amid firm global demand and supply restrictions. [O/R]

Brent for December delivery was off 9 cents in early trade at $56.70 a barrel, while U.S. crude eased 5 cents to $51.62 a barrel.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Peter Cooney)