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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, while the dollar edged up against the yen.

The euro also enjoyed 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 on a stronger yen. But the market later picked up, 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 1,970.77 and Sydney closed flat, edging up 3.2 points to 5,427.0.

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

Hong Kong ended up 0.54 percent, or 120.24 points, at 22,437.44.

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

The Case-Shiller index for home prices in 20 leading US cities fell 0.1 percent in December, the second straight 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 lost 0.13 percent.

The government will release its latest estimate for October-December growth Friday. Economists hope the figure will give them a better handle on the state of the economy.

Tuesday's data sent the dollar falling to 102.22 yen in New York. In Tokyo Wednesday the sell-off continued in initial exchanges, with the unit hitting 102.09 yen but it rose to 102.35 yen later.

- Euro up on EU growth revision -

The euro rose against the yen after the European Commission said the eurozone was expected to grow 1.2 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2015, against November's estimates of 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent.

The wider European Union's economy was tipped to expand 1.5 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2015, each revised up 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 euro bought $1.3741 and 140.63 yen compared with $1.3744 and 140.49 yen in US trade.

Investors are now awaiting Thursday's testimony by Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen to senators on the economy and bank policy, which was delayed due to the bad weather.

Her testimony to the House of Representatives two weeks ago revealed little, but showed the Fed was confident in its forecasts for growth this year despite a soft December and January.

"The (Senate) speech would normally be the same as the one given to the House... but the delay may elicit a rewrite. That would provide a substantial clue to where the Fed sits," National Australia Bank said in a note.

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

Gold fetched $1,342.90 an ounce at 0800 GMT, compared to $1,332.56 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

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

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co slipped 0.46 percent to 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.

-- Manila added 0.43 percent, or 27.05 points, to 6,322.60.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone put on 0.30 percent to end at 2,698 pesos and Bank of the Philippine Islands rose 0.16 percent to 91.15 pesos.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140226/asian-shares-mostly-higher-dollar-rebounds-0