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Asia stocks gain, much riding on China stability efforts

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A pedestrian is reflected on a glass of a business building while an electric board showing Nikkei index is seen in the building at a busine...

A pedestrian is reflected on a glass of a business building while an electric board showing Nikkei index is seen in the building at a busine...

SYDNEY, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Asian stocks firmed on Wednesday as investors waited to see if Beijing's increasingly frantic efforts to prop up its sagging share markets would actually work, while bonds enjoyed a reprieve from recent selling.

In recent days, China's regulators have announced further curbs on short selling and state investors said they were expanding their stockbuying plans.

Bloomberg News also reported President Xi Jinping would discuss the stock market with financial regulators, though there was no confirmation this had happened or what was discussed.

However, the jury is very much out on how effective all this will prove and the blue chip index (.CSI300), opens new tab inched up 0.2% in choppy early trade, while Shanghai stocks (.SSEC), opens new tab added 0.1%.

"Markets have shown that their bar to turning more optimistic around the economy has been high," said Galvin Chia, emerging markets strategist at NatWest. "There is also considerable uncertainty around what the government's longer-term approach is towards markets."

"What I am wary of is a short term bounce gets quickly unwound after onshore markets return after the Lunar New Year break."

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS), opens new tab gained 0.7% to a five-week top, helped by a 1.8% jump in South Korea (.KS11), opens new tab. Japan's Nikkei (.N225), opens new tab dipped 0.1%, but was off early lows.

EUROSTOXX 50 futures added 0.2% and FTSE futures 0.3%.

S&P 500 futures firmed 0.1% and Nasdaq futures rose 0.2%. Companies reporting earnings on Wednesday include Uber (UBER.N), opens new tab, Walt Disney (DIS.N), opens new tab and PayPal (PYPL.O), opens new tab.

The banking sector remained a concern as Moody's downgraded New York Community Bancorp (NYCB.N), opens new tab to junk citing pressure on its funding and liquidity.

MORE FED SPEAKERS

The timing of U.S. rate cuts was no clearer after Federal Reserve Presidents Loretta Mester and Neel Kashkari welcomed the progress on inflation but signalled there was more work to do before policy could be eased.

Fed Philadelphia President Patrick Harper was more upbeat on achieving an economic soft landing and noted they were making "real progress" on inflation.

Further guidance will come later Wednesday as Fed speakers include Governors Adriana Kugler and Michelle Bowman, along with Presidents Thomas Barkin and Susan Collins.

Fed fund futures still found buyers on Tuesday after two sessions of sharp falls, and the market essentially added 8 basis points of cuts back in for 2024.

The probability of a cut as early as May now stands at just 39%, when it was considered a done deal just a week ago, while the chance of a quarter-point move in June remains at 100%.

Futures imply around 122 basis points of easing for all of 2024, down from 145 basis points late last week.

Treasuries also bounced as a sale of three-year paper drew solid demand, and 10-year yields dipped to 4.09% from Monday's top of 4.177%.

The drop in yields took some steam out of the U.S. dollar which eased to 147.85 yen and away from the recent 10-week peak of 148.90.

The euro has had its own troubles with a string of soft economic data at home and was flat at $1.07960 , some distance from last week's top of $1.0897.

The dip in the dollar helped gold steady at $2,035 an ounce , having been as low as $2,013.70 early in the week.

Oil prices found support from a U.S. Energy Department assessment that U.S. output would grow by only 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, instead of a previously forecasted pace of 290,000 bpd.

Brent rose 28 cents to $78.87 a barrel, while U.S. crude edged up 31 cents to $73.62 per barrel.