Asian shares were higher in early Asian trade on Thursday, heartened by gains on Wall Street and a recovery in crude oil prices in thin trading ahead of this week's Christmas holiday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.4 percent, after Wall Street logged its third straight session of gains.

U.S. crude futures were up 0.9 percent at $37.83 a barrel. Both U.S. crude and Brent crude futures added more than a dollar a barrel on Wednesday in thin trading, a day after Brent had touched its lowest level since July 2004.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.9 percent, catching up to gains after Japanese markets were closed on Wednesday for the Emperor's birthday.

Minutes of the Bank of Japan's November rate review released early on Thursday showed that many policymakers complained of slow wage and capital expenditure growth, but were optimistic that companies will start to boost spending once emerging economies improve.

"Even though the BOJ keeps the door open to further embark on the easing cycle, the recent comments from Governor Haruhiko Kuroda suggest the bar remains high for the committee to further expand its asset-purchase program as the central bank head remains confident in achieving the 2 percent inflation goal over the policy horizon," David Song, currency analyst at DailyFX, wrote in a note.

U.S. data released overnight provided no real directional clues, as new orders for U.S. manufactured capital goods fell last month while personal income rose, and consumer sentiment hit a five-month high in December.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rival currencies, was steady at 98.335, below its two-week high of 99.294 set on Thursday last week after the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate hike.

The dollar was also steady at 120.92 yen, below its Friday high of 123.49 yen but holding above a one-week low of 120.72 touched on Tuesday.

The euro was nearly flat at $1.0913.

Spot gold was steady at $1,070.90 an ounce after languishing for two straight sessions of losses. Gold prices are down more than 9 percent for the year, weighed by positioning that took place ahead of the Fed's widely anticipated December interest rate hike.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)