Asian stock markets mostly edged higher on Friday, underpinned by encouraging U.S. retail sales but cautious ahead of a U.S. payrolls report, while the Aussie dollar was supported by a spike in gold prices.
Chinese shares wobbled, but by mid-afternoon had extended gains from Thursday's near 5 percent surge, which came after reassuring remarks from a top securities regulator raised hopes for policy support.
Major European stock futures were up 0.5 percent, while U.S. equity futures slipped 0.1 percent.
The dollar dipped against the yen, although at 92.62 yen it was still above this week's seven-week low of 91.94 as the market was uncertain about how it would react to the payrolls data.
Hopes that a long-awaited revival in U.S. consumer spending has begun lent some support to Asian share markets, but gold prices remained near $1,000 an ounce after an overnight rally that indicated investors may be becoming more risk averse amid a still uncertain global economic environment.
There is a bit of de-risking ahead of the payrolls data and the long weekend in the States, people are pretty happy to take some money off the table and just wait and see what the weekend brings, said Daniel Manley, a dealer at Burrell & Co.
Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher, in remarks published during Asian trade, said the U.S. economy was set for a long period of slow growth and that it was too early to guess at the timing or pace of any U.S. interest rate rises.
We are likely to see a prolonged period of sluggish economic performance and uncomfortably high unemployment as businesses reallocate capital and labor to fit the new economic landscape, Fisher said.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 0.5 percent by mid-afternoon.
A rally in Asian shares has sputtered in recent weeks amid fears that a global economic recovery could longer than expected. But the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index is still up 47 percent since the start of the year and some markets, such as Hong Kong, Korea and Shanghai, have recaptured levels seen before the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers last September.
Shanghai's main index <.SSEC> rose 0.7 percent after dipping into negative territory in morning trade. Signs of market stability in China and the better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data pushed up Hong Kong's Hang Seng index <.HSI> 0.6 percent.
Japan bucked the firmer regional trend as its second-biggest brokerage Daiwa Securities <8601.T> fell 6.1 percent on news it plans to buy out Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group <8316.T>, the country's third-largest bank, from their investment banking joint venture.
Shares in electronics maker Toshiba Corp <6502.T> slid 2.3 percent on reports it will bid for the power distribution and transmission equipment unit of French nuclear group Areva
The Nikkei index <.N225> ended down 0.3 percent at a five-week closing low, but exporters including electronics parts maker Kyocera Corp <6971.T>, which rose 2.2 percent, were supported by the U.S. retail sales data and Japanese capital expenditure data for April-June, which suggested the worst of the decline in capex spending may be over.
The Aussie dollar was firm, trading at $0.8402 by 0602 GMT, slightly off an earlier high of $0.8407 in the wake of gold's overnight rally.
Shares of Australian gold miners benefited from the higher gold price, although Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index <.AXJO> shed most of its early gains to end up just 0.2 percent as investors awaited the U.S. data.
Korean stocks <.KS11> dipped 0.3 percent, with Hynix Semiconductor Inc <000660.KS>, the world's second-largest memory chip maker, slumping 5.7 percent on a downgrade by Daewoo Securities.
Commodities prices were firm, though. As gold prices flirted with $1,000 an ounce, NYMEX crude oil edged up to $68.23 a barrel, from just under $68 in late New York trade.
LME lead hit a 19-month high at $2,345 a tonne. Traders attributed its strength to growing concern about lead supplies from China, which is clamping down on pollution following lead poisoning incidents.