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Asia shares push higher; Aussie firm ahead of RBA rate decision

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By Rae Wee

SINGAPORE, June 18 (Reuters) -Asian stocks tracked Wall Street higher on Tuesday ahead of a chorus of Federal Reserve officials due to speak later in the day, while the Australian dollar held steady and domestic shares rose ahead of the country's interest rate decision.

Ebbing worries over political turmoil in Europe also added to the buoyant market mood and sent EUROSTOXX 50 futures STXEc1 0.6% higher, reversing some of its steep losses from last week. FTSE futures FFIc1 similarly rose 0.43%.

The main market focus in Asian hours on Tuesday was on the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) policy decision, where expectations are for the central bank to stand pat on rates.

Focus, however, will be on any forward guidance for a potential easing cycle Down Under. 0#RBAWATCH

The Aussie AUD=D3 was last 0.07% higher at $0.6617, while Australian shares .AXJO jumped 0.9%, in line with its regional peers.

"The RBA is universally expected to keep rates on hold today," said Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

"Key domestic data (and) events since the May meeting have been mixed but err slightly firmer in our view - a firm April CPI print, further house price gains, more resilient household consumption, a still tight labour market and expansionary budgets," he said.

"Things are still a long way from prompting the RBA to signal a shift to a less restrictive policy stance."

Elsewhere, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.68%, helped by an overnight rally on Wall Street.

"Optimism over a resilient economy, improving corporate earnings and the potential start of rate cuts has supported equities, defying concerns that the rally has been concentrated in just a few mega-cap tech stocks," said Jameson Coombs, an economist at Westpac.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 advanced 0.83%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI edged 0.14% higher. Chinese blue-chips .CSI300 ticked up 0.17%.

Central banks in Norway, the UK and Switzerland are also due to meet this week, where bets are for the former two to hold steady on rates and for the Swiss National Bank to deliver another 25 basis points (bps) of easing.

Over in the United States, no fewer than six Fed speakers are on the docket on Tuesday, and they could provide further clues on the U.S. interest rate outlook following last week's policy decision.

Futures now point to roughly 45 bps worth of Fed cuts priced in for the rest of 2024. FEDWATCH

In currencies, the dollar was mixed on Tuesday and fell a marginal 0.04% to 157.68 yen JPY=EBS.

The euro EUR=EBS fell a touch to $1.0729, while sterling GBP=D3 rose 0.04% to $1.27105.

China's onshore yuan CNY=CFXS languished near a seven-month trough at 7.2554 per dollar, weighed down in part by mixed economic data on Monday that pointed to further support needed from Beijing to shore up the country's economy.

"China's May economic data suggest that policymakers have a lot to do to sustain the fragile recovery," said analysts at Societe Generale. "The supply side and external demand remained more robust than domestic demand, despite the moderation in industrial production growth."

Elsewhere, oil prices ticked higher on a stronger demand outlook and investor confidence that OPEC+ producers could pause or reverse plans to raise supplies from the fourth quarter of this year.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 0.11% at $84.34 per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 firmed at $80.34 a barrel. O/R

Spot gold XAU= edged 0.13% higher to $2,321.99 an ounce. GOL/

World FX rates YTD http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

Global asset performance http://tmsnrt.rs/2yaDPgn

Asian stock markets https://tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

Reporting by Rae Wee in Singapore; Editing by Jamie Freed

To read Reuters Markets and Finance news, click on https://www.reuters.com/finance/markets For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on: 0#.INDEXA

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