* European markets seen opening flat to positive
* Downbeat bank earnings drag on U.S. shares, put dampener
* U.S. oil, gold rise, showing some still optimistic on
* Dollar index pushes higher; Aussie dollar remains under
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, Jan 17 The dollar pushed higher on Friday
and Asian stocks clawed their way off session lows, moving past
downbeat results on Wall Street as some investors wagered that
upcoming U.S. data will paint an optimistic picture of the
world's largest economy.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a
basket of six major currencies, held its ground on the day,
adding 0.1 percent at 80.949.
The dollar was flat on the day against the yen at 104.34 yen
, though it held well off a four-week low of 102.85 set on
Monday. Against the euro, the dollar edged up to $1.3615.
"European markets should open on a flat to positive footing,
with plenty for traders to focus on," said IG chief market
strategist Chris Weston.
The batch of data due later in the session include December
U.S. housing starts, building permits, industrial production and
the University of Michigan sentiment index.
Financial spreadbetters predicted Britain's FTSE 100
and France's CAC 40 to each rise as much as 0.3 percent,
and Germany's DAX 0.2 percent.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
managed to erase an earlier drop and tack on 0.2
percent, while Australian shares pared losses to end
down 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei index ended off its
session lows, down 0.1 percent.
Thursday's U.S. data showed consumer prices rose the most in
six months in December, in line with expectations, and the
number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits
fell for a second week last week. But the Philadelphia Fed's
index of business conditions in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region
fell to its lowest level since April.
Markets were caught off-guard a week ago when payroll
numbers showed U.S. jobs growth unexpectedly weakened. But
subsequent upbeat data, including robust consumer spending,
dispelled some of the concerns.
Investors initially reduced positions on Friday before a
three-day weekend in the United States, where markets are closed
on Monday for a public holiday, said Norihiro Fujito, a senior
investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley
Securities in Tokyo
On Thursday, the Standard & Poor's 500 backed away
from a record high struck in the previous session, after
disappointing earnings from banks including Goldman Sachs
and Citigroup Inc, though some noted that the broader
impact was limited.
"The market has not made much of the news with regard to
global growth, though, as oil prices remained broadly unchanged
and non-financial stocks broadly outperformed," strategists at
Barclays said in a note to clients.
U.S. crude futures rose 0.2 percent to $94.10 a
barrel, not far from a two-week peak of $94.64 reached earlier
this week after U.S. government data showed a
larger-than-expected drop in inventories. They were set to post
their first weekly gain in three weeks.
But Brent crude fell 0.2 percent to $105.51 a
barrel, on track for a weekly decline of 1.7 percent.
Gold was steady, slightly higher at $1,243.80 an ounce
in the wake of the brighter U.S. data.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar slumped 0.1 percent to
$0.8813, after it shed more than 1 percent on Thursday
to $0.8777 -- a low not seen since August 2010. Traders said
good buying interest below 88 U.S. cents should provide some
support for now.
The Aussie plunged after news Australia's economy shed
22,600 jobs in December, when economists had expected a small