Asian shares drift higher, dollar keeps gains
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia share markets made guarded gains on Friday and the dollar held firm in the wake of reassuringly upbeat U.S. retail data, though the mood was cautious as Greek debt talks took yet another confusing turn.
Activity was sparse with MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS up 0.4 percent, but only just above three-month lows.
Japan's Nikkei .N225 was all but flat though it found some support in a dollar bounce against the yen. South Korea .KS11 managed a gain of 0.6 percent and Shanghai shares .SSEC added 0.7 percent in early trade.
The gains followed a slightly firmer close on Wall Street with the Dow .DJI up 0.22 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX added 0.17 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.11 percent.
Sentiment was bolstered by a solid rise in U.S. retail sales which, combined with upward revisions, suggested the economy was warming after a chilly start to the year. [TOP/CEN]
If the momentum is sustained, the Federal Reserve could indeed begin to hike interest rates later in the year, a scenario still favored by many economists.
The news helped the dollar index .DXY up to 95.032, and away from a near one-month low of 94.322 set on Wednesday. Against the yen, the greenback bought 123.50 yen JPY=, well off this week's trough of 122.46.
The euro had less luck as talks on Greece showed no sign of reaching a deal. The single currency was off at $1.1254 EUR=, from a high of $1.1387 set on Wednesday. Continued...