GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks edge up, dollar slips after soft US data

Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:58pm EST

* Asian shares track U.S. gains despite softer retail sales, jobs claims reports

* Dollar wallows close to nearly 3-week low vs. euro

* Bad weather affects U.S. trade; Tokyo struggles under snow

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Asian shares edged higher in early trading on Friday, shrugging off downbeat U.S. economic data that pressured the dollar, which probed nearly three-week low against the euro.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent, while Australia's main index added 0.5 percent.

Wall Street investors managed to shrug off the dour data on Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all marking gains.

Thursday's U.S. trading session was affected by a storm that began late Wednesday and battered many eastern states. Tokyo trading on Friday was similarly likely to be thinner than usual, as snow blanketed the capital.

U.S. retail sales fell unexpectedly in January, while separate data showed more claims for jobless benefits last week, against a backdrop of unusually bad weather.

"While some of the softness is likely weather-related, the weakness was broad-based enough to suggest consumption is off to a weaker start in 2014," strategists at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.

"That said, the trend strengthening in real consumption remains, and we maintain our outlook for modest above-trend economic growth in 2014-15," they added, noting that Treasuries nonetheless got a lift from the downbeat data.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes stood at 2.733 percent in early Asian trade, compared with Thursday's U.S. close of 2.736 percent.

Yields have rallied this week after the U.S. Congress approved an increase in the debt limit and incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen maintained the central bank's commitment to withdraw its stimulus.

Against the yen, the greenback inched slightly higher on the day to 102.22 yen but was still well below Thursday's session high of 102.58 yen.

The dollar index wallowed at 80.293, not far from Thursday's low of 80.194, a level last seen on Jan. 24.

The euro was holding steady at $1.3677, not far from the previous session's high of $1.3692, which was its highest since Jam. 27.

The common currency had a muted reaction to news that Italian prime minister will resign on Friday, opening the way for the country's third administration in a year.

Investors awaited fourth quarter growth data out of the euro zone later on Friday. Analysts polled by Reuters expect slightly faster growth in the 17-nation economy.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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