TOKYO/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia stocks pared early gains on Friday as caution crept in ahead of the U.S. earnings season and as investors weighed the possible impact on global growth from a tariff spat between the United States and China.

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian casts a shadow in front of an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Investors were also left digesting mixed data from China which showed March exports unexpectedly fell 2.7 percent from a year earlier while imports grew more than forecast.

That left the country with a rare trade deficit of $4.98 billion for the month, the first since last February.

China is the world’s biggest net crude oil consumer and top buyer of copper, coal, iron ore and soy.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up a slim 0.07 percent, having risen as much as 0.5 percent in morning trading.

It is still up about 2 percent on the week.

Chinese shares took a small knock, with both the blue-chip CSI300 index .CSI300 and Shanghai's SSE Composite .SSEC off 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index .HSI eased 0.1 percent while Japan's Nikkei .N225 gained 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, futures pointed to a weak start for U.S. shares with E-Minis for S&P 500 ESc1 down 0.3 percent.

The earnings season begins in earnest on Friday with reports from JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N).

Analysts expect quarterly profit for S&P 500 companies to rise 18.4 percent from a year ago, in what would be the biggest gain in seven years, according to

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