(Reuters) Asian shares rose and the euro edged higher Friday, as signs of strength in the U.S. economy temporarily broke through gloom over the European debt crisis that had driven a selloff in riskier assets over the past three days.

U.S. stocks rose modestly Thursday, after a fall in U.S. unemployment, a stronger-than-expected rise in regional factory activity and better-than-forecast results from FedEx Corp (FDX.N) painted an improving picture of the economy.

The American economy is continuing to improve and they are still the biggest economy in the world ... so if America is doing well that is going to help us all, said Michael Heffernan, senior client adviser and strategist Austock Group.

Spreads in Asian credit markets tightened, a sign that investors were prepared to take on more risk, and the dollar, which has been the main beneficiary of a flight-to-safety in recent days, eased a little.

Japan's Nikkei share average <.N225> followed the trend, rising 0.4 percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.7 percent.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 percent in Asian trading, suggesting a firm start on Wall Street later.

Despite a volatile second half, the S&P 500 is only down around 3 percent for the year, smartly outperforming markets in Asia, where the MSCI ex-Japan index has lost 19 percent in 2011 and the Nikkei has fallen 18 percent.

Shares in FedEx, viewed as an economic bellwether, jumped 8 percent after its positive earnings surprise on Thursday, as markets also cheered data showing unemployment claims at a 3-1/2-year low.

EURO ZONE

European stocks also rose slightly on Thursday, while the unloved euro found some support after a bond auction in Spain, one of the euro zone countries recently in the bond market's sights, drew robust demand.

But the markets remained braced for possible credit rating downgrades for euro zone countries after judging that last week's European Union summit had failed to lay the ground for a quick resolution to the crisis, limiting the single currency's gains.

The euro traded around $1.3030, up slightly on the day and off an 11-month trough around $1.2944 plumbed earlier in the week.

The single currency has fallen more than 12 percent since reaching a year-high near $1.50 in May, but is down only around 2.5 percent for 2011 as a whole.

Commodities were steady-to-higher, stabilizing after sharp sell-offs earlier in the week.

Gold climbed off a 2- month low, rising about 0.4 percent to around $1,576 an ounce.

Gold has been hammered in recent days as fund managers liquidate their holdings, either to cover losses elsewhere or to lock in profits on an asset that is still up around 11 percent for the year.

Brent crude rose 0.4 percent to around $104 a barrel, while U.S. crude was little changed just below $94. Copper rose 0.9 percent to around $7,280 a tonne.