* 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 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
"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.