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Asian shares mostly higher, dollar rebounds

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asia's markets mostly rose on Wednesday as investors brushed off a weak batch of data from the United States as investors picked up bargains, while the dollar edged up against the yen after seeing losses in New York.

The euro also enjoyed a measure of support after European officials raised their growth forecasts, as the region slowly recovers from its debilitating debt crisis.

Tokyo dived more than one percent at the open because of a stronger yen. But the market clawed back some of those losses, in line with a greenback revival, and by the end of trade the Nikkei was 0.54 percent, or 80.63 points, lower at 14,970.97.

Seoul rose 0.30 percent, or 5.91 points, to close at 1,970.77 and Sydney closed flat, edging up 3.2 points to 5,427.0.

Shanghai closed up 0.35 percent, or 7.04 points, at 2,041.25, following recent losses caused by liquidity fears and concern about possible moves to rein in property prices.

In late afternoon trade Hong Kong was 0.74 percent higher.

With no market-moving news expected in the region until the weekend, eyes are on the United States where investors reacted badly to downbeat housing consumer data.

The Case-Shiller index for home prices in 20 leading US cities fell 0.1 percent in December, the second straight monthly decline, while the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 78.1 in February from 79.4 in January.

On Wall Street the Dow slipped 0.17 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.13 percent and the Nasdaq gave up 0.13 percent.

The government will release its latest estimate on October-December gross domestic product on Friday, which economists hope will give a better handle on the state of the world's number one economy.

Tuesday's news weighed on the dollar, which fell in New York to 102.22 yen. In Tokyo on Wednesday the sell-off continued in initial exchanges, with the unit hitting 102.09 yen but it recovered strongly to 102.32 yen in the afternoon.

The euro was sitting higher after the European Commission said the 18-nation eurozone was expected to grow 1.2 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2015, up from November's estimates for 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent.

Similarly, the full 28-member EU's economy will expand 1.5 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2015, each also revised up by 0.1 percentage point.

"Recovery is gaining ground in Europe... rebalancing of the European economy has been progressing and external competitiveness is improving," said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

"The worst of the crisis may now be behind us, but this is not an invitation to be complacent as the recovery is still modest," Rehn said.

The single currency bought $1.3743 and 140.62 yen compared with $1.3744 and 140.49 yen in US trade.

Investors are now waiting for Thursday's testimony by Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen to the Senate Banking Committee on the economy and bank policy, which has been delayed due to the bad weather.

Her testimony to the House of Representatives two weeks ago was hardly revealing, except to show the Fed remains confident in its forecasts for growth this year despite the sluggishness of December and January.

"The (Senate) speech would normally be the same as the one given to the House... but the delay may elicit a re-write. That would provide a substantial clue to where the Fed sits," NAB said

Oil prices slipped. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, eased 13 cents to $101.70 in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for April was down 16 cents at $109.35.

Gold fetched $1,343.60 an ounce at 0700 GMT, compared to $1,332.56 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei added 0.29 percent, or 25.24 points, to end at 8,600.86.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.46 percent lower at Tw$107.5 while smartphone maker HTC gained 4.92 percent to Tw$138.5.

-- Wellington rose 0.11 percent, or 5.69 points, to 4,973.20.

Postal company Freightways added 2.1 percent to NZ$4.90 but chemicals firm Nuplex slipped 2.4 percent to NZ$3.28.

dan/jta

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140226/asian-shares-mostly-higher-dollar-rebounds