Asian stocks got off to a steady start on Monday as soft US data was partially offset by a weekend interest rate cut by China, while the dollar hit a five-week high against the euro. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.1 per cent and Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 0.3 per cent. South Korean and Australian shares also gained. China on Saturday stepped up its easing tempo and cut its lending and deposit rates as the world’s second-largest economy tries to ward off deflation. But the impact from the weekend easing only had a limited effect on the region’s markets. “News of China’ rate cut should help buyer mood this morning, compensating for a weak lead from the US market,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “However, while news of lower borrowing costs will help support equity valuations and be seen as a positive for commodity demand, market response may be limited. In some senses this rate cut is a technical response to the fact that lower inflation is making real borrowing costs more expensive in China.” Equity markets were also cautious after revised data on Friday showed US gross domestic product expanded at a slower pace in the fourth quarter than initially thought, and the University of Michigan’s final February reading on US consumer sentiment slipped from an 11-year high. The impact of China’s easing on the Australian dollar, often used as a proxy for Chinese growth prospects, was also limited. The aussie climbed to US$0.7850 early in the session before losing steam to trade at US$0.7791, down 0.2 per cent. The US dollar was up 0.1 per cent at 119.81 yen after gaining about 0.6 per cent last week when upbeat US data helped revive prospects of an early interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve. A rise above 119.84 would take the US dollar to a three-week high. The euro hovered near a five-week low of US$1.1160. In addition to the all-important US non-farm payrolls data on Friday, the key focus this week will be the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday. Investors are keenly waiting for further details on its ¤1 trillion (HK$8.6 trillion) government bond-buying programme, which begins this month.