Asian shares rallied and the euro steadied Wednesday after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would resign, raising hopes the debt-ridden country would proceed with reforms that may help keep the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis from spreading.

An easing in Chinese inflation also soothed fears about the world's second-largest economy, bolstering oil prices and underpinning Chinese shares.

Berlusconi said Tuesday he would leave office after parliament approves a budget law that includes reforms demanded by Europe, but Italy looks set for prolonged political uncertainty after his announcement.

Doubts that the European Union will be able to stop the crisis from spreading continued to fuel interest in safe-haven gold, pushing prices higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 1 percent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> rose nearly 1 percent.

The news helped stabilize the euro and prompted investors to buy back shares, but there is still uncertainty in the euro as reshuffling its leader alone doesn't guarantee Italy's fiscal situation will improve, said Yuuki Sakurai, CEO of Fukoku Asset Management.

Until the problem of sovereign debt, the last resort for investors, is resolved, investor preference for liquid assets such as cash and Japanese government bonds remains in place.

The euro held firm, pushing to $1.3840 against the dollar. The single currency rose as high as $1.3847 in New York on Tuesday.

China's annual inflation rate eased to 5.5 percent in October from 6.1 percent in September for a third straight month of decline from July's three-year peak and Premier Wen Jiabao said prices had fallen further since then.

Chinese producer prices rose 5 percent in the year through October, down from a 6.5 percent rise in the year to September.

Easing price pressures helped fuel expectations that China may start to ease monetary policy as exporters feel the impact from slowing global growth.

Hong Kong shares <.HSI> rose as much as around 2 percent while Brent crude gained for a fifth day on Wednesday, rising 0.5 percent to $115.57 a barrel.


Berlusconi's resignation could come this month, with votes likely in coming weeks on Italian budget measures including austerity reforms to cut debt and bring borrowing costs under control.

The yield on Italy's benchmark 10-year bond hit a 14-year high of 6.79 percent on Tuesday, approaching levels seen in the government bonds of Portugal and Ireland when they had to seek bailouts.

Italy is the third largest economy in the euro zone and failure to fix its debt problems would have a far bigger impact on the region than difficulties in Greece.

Investor jitters over Italy's debt has kept the spread on Italian government bonds over Bunds to 490 basis points.

Despite the rise in riskier assets such as stocks and oil, and a firmer euro and the dollar, gold gained 0.5 percent to close in on $1,800 an ounce. It briefly rose above $1,800 on Tuesday, its highest in seven weeks, before falling on news from Italy.

While market focus has shifted to Italy from Greece, the situation in the euro zone is far from installing optimism, said Yuichi Ikemizu, branch manager for Standard Bank in Tokyo.

Gold is underpinned by favorable factors, such as global growth slowdown and the euro zone debt problems.

Ikemizu said while physical investors are sidelined given the high price level, funds buying helped pushed prices higher.

While the market was temporarily relieved by Italy's political shakeup, Greece remained undecided on its next leader. Party leaders were locked in talks on a unity coalition, with the EU seeking an immediate deal to save the country's finances.

EU finance ministers failed to make progress on Tuesday on ways to shore up sagging banks and avert a credit squeeze, as rising borrowing costs for Italy make it more difficult for European banks to borrow as they are increasingly reluctant to lend to one another.

Such uncertainties over key issues kept gains in Asian credit markets modest.

The spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment grade index - a gauge of investor appetite for risk - narrowed by about 5 basis points early on Wednesday.

So what if Berlusconi eventually does the right thing? We'll rally for a period - maybe a day or two - then just sell off again, said a note from Societe Generale.

The Greeks have delivered nothing, there's growing feeling that Italy will possibly go the same way, the EFSF has been shown to be no panacea - and soon it won't even get funded.

Earlier this week, the European Financial Stability Facility, the euro zone's bailout fund, had difficulty finding buyers for 10-year bonds issued to support Ireland.

(Additional reporting by Umesh Desai in Hong Kong; Editing by Kim Coghill)