By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose on Wednesday and the dollar held near an eight-week high against a basket of currencies, as investors cheered upbeat U.S. economic data and another record close for the S&P 500.
Riskier asset markets were underpinned overnight after the United States reported an unexpected rise in durable goods orders in April and higher home prices for March. Services industries, which dominate the economy, also grew at a rapid clip in May.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.4 percent and Tokyo's Nikkei ticked up 0.1 percent. South Korean shares were up almost 0.5 percent.
"The bullish U.S. indicators have set the positive tone for investors, who are basically using this week to prepare for next week's ECB meeting," said Cho Byung-hyun, analyst at Tong Yang Securities in Seoul.
The recent run of largely upbeat U.S. data has helped underpin global equities even as a slowdown in China still remains a worry.
The Federal Reserve's commitment to continue to support the world's biggest economy and indications the European Central Bank (ECB) will take easing steps to prop up sluggish growth in the euro zone have also calmed investor nerves.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.42 percent, and the S&P 500 advanced 0.60 percent to 1,911.91, a new record.
The economic optimism steered the dollar index, which measures the greenback's strength against a basket of key currencies, to a high of 80.470 - a level last seen in early April. It last traded at 80.35. [FRX/]
The dollar, which was also supported by a rise in U.S. Treasury yields, fetched 101.91 yen, within striking distance of a two-week high of 102.145 hit on Tuesday.
The euro remained on the defensive after comments from ECB President Mario Draghi again highlighted the bank's discomfort over persistently low inflation and suggested some kind of policy action was likely at the June 5 meeting.
The euro was little changed at $1.3634, hovering near a three-month low $1.3612 plumbed on Tuesday.
In commodities, gold extended sharp overnight losses and fell to a fresh 3-1/2 month low as the strong U.S. economic data eroded its safe-haven appeal and after a drop in imports by top consumer China.
Spot gold slipped to a low of $1,260.74 an ounce, its weakest since Feb. 7. [GOL/]
In contrast, seasonally strong demand from top user China kept copper well bid. Three-month copper at the London Metal Exchange was at $6,933 a tonne after reaching a three-month peak of $6,966 on Tuesday. [MET/L]
Brent crude dipped 29 cents to $110.31 a barrel after position adjustments by traders sent gasoline plunging, but geopolitical risk in Libya and Ukraine contained the downside. [O/R]
(Additional reporting by Jungmin Jang in Seoul; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)