Asian shares rose on Thursday as surprisingly strong Australian jobs data raised hopes for a stronger global economic recovery and pushed the Aussie and New Zealand currencies to fresh 14-month highs, while gold hit another record.

European stock futures were up 1.4 percent and the euro advanced ahead of a European Central Bank meeting and speculation that ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet might complain about the currency's strength.

U.S. equity futures were 0.9 percent higher, indicating a higher open on Wall Street.

Asian shares got an early boost after aluminum producer Alcoa kicked off the U.S. earnings season with a surprise profit, sending its shares 6 percent higher in after-hours trade.

An unexpected surge in Australian jobs last month and improving economic data out of South Korea added to signs that a global recovery may be accelerating.

The Aussie dollar leapt above $0.90 to its highest level since August last year as news that Australia created more than 40,000 jobs last month -- against expectations for a 10,000 decline -- fueled speculation the central bank will raise interest rates again in November after a hike earlier this week.

The euro strengthened to $1.4757 in Asia, from $1.4681 in New York.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England were both expected to keep rates unchanged at meetings later on Thursday amid much weaker economic conditions than in Australia, but there was speculation Trichet may mention the currency.

We do not expect any fireworks from Trichet, although the market will remain sensitive to any comments from him regarding the exchange rate, said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital in Australia.

Australian equities gained 1.6 percent to a one-year closing high after the jobs data, outperforming a 1 percent increase in the MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS>, which briefly topped 400 points, a level it has not seen since August last year.

The Thomson Reuters index of regional shares <.TRXFLDAXPU> was 0.2 percent higher.

Japan's Nikkei index <.N225> edged up 0.3 percent, helped by gains in shipping firms after the Baltic Exchange's sea freight index <.BADI> hit a seven-week high on Wednesday, a further indication that global demand may be recovering. Mitsui OSK Lines <9104.T> and Nippon Yusen KK <9101.T> surged 5.8 percent and 7.3, percent respectively.

Concerns about the yen's recent strength, however, kept a lid on exporters' shares and Sony Corp <6758.T> dipped 0.6 percent.

Australia's move on Tuesday made it the first G20 nation to raise rates since the global recession began to ease and fueled market expectations that South Korea could soon follow suit.

Korean equities <.KS11> rose 1 percent, helped by improving export and retail sales data.

The data raised expectations that the Bank of Korea will raise rates soon to head off inflationary pressures as the economy recovers, though market watchers expect it will probably hold its fire at its monthly review on Friday.

Traders said the Korean authorities were spotted buying dollars on Thursday to stem a strengthening Korean won, which has been spurred by rate rise expectations. Policy makers fear a firmer currency could dent an export recovery.


The Aussie dollar bolted to as high as $.9035 after the bullish jobs data, rising 1.5 percent from Wednesday's levels, before paring some of its gains.

It has been the best performer this year among the world's most traded currencies, underpinned by the resilient local economy, higher commodity prices and a pick up in investor appetite for riskier assets as the global financial crisis eased.

The New Zealand dollar also scaled fresh 14-month highs as signs Australia's economic recovery is accelerating boosted confidence in New Zealand and sparked speculation it could also raise interest rates soon.

The Kiwi dollar reached $0.7425 at one point, its highest level since late July 2008.

The prospect that U.S. interest rates will remain low for a longer time continued to undermine the dollar across the board, giving an additional boost to higher-yielding currencies.

The dollar index <.DXY>, a measure of the greenback against six major currencies, hovered at its lowest in two weeks, not far off its 2009 low set in September at 75.827.

The U.S. currency slipped 0.4 percent from late New York levels to 88.30 yen.

Persistent dollar weakness and fears of inflation encouraged investors to continue piling into gold, which hit a record high for a third straight session at $1,050.55 an ounce.

Investors are turning toward gold as a hedge in dollar weakness, said Adrian Koh, an analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Oil prices rose more than 1 percent to above US$70 a barrel on global recovery hopes.

(Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in SYDNEY and Lewa Pardomuan in SINGAPORE)

(Editing by Kim Coghill)