Global shares edged off 16-month highs on Friday as an unexpected jump in U.S. jobless claims and persistent uncertainty over a solution to Greece's debt crisis tempered optimism over the global economic recovery.

The euro remained pressured and Greek bond yields rose after Athens said it was preparing to activate an IMF/EU financial aid package.

Forecast-beating earnings from conglomerate General Electric and Bank of America , the largest U.S. bank by assets, helped dispel disappointment felt by some investors over results posted by internet giant Google .

Clearly both are bellwethers covering a large section of the waterfront in their sectors so if they are seeing better trends, then this should read through to other parts of the economy, said John Haynes, head of research at Rensburg Sheppards.

General Electric, the largest U.S. conglomerate, said it saw potential for upside to its earlier forecast of flat 2010 results.

Doubts over the strength of the economic recovery linger after data showing growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector was offset by an unexpected upwards spike in the weekly number of U.S. workers filing new jobless claims.

MSCI's global equity index <.MIWD00000PUS> dipped 0.3 percent by 1150 GMT though they remained set for their seventh straight weekly gain.

There's a bit of wait and see ahead of the bulk of U.S. results next week, but the broad outline is that earnings are looking good, with growth stronger than expected in the U.S., said Steven Bell, director at hedge fund GLC.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> shrugged off earlier weakness to hit its highest in nearly 19 months before gains were capped by weakness in airlines stocks, weighed down by travel paralysis due to the huge ash cloud thrown up by an Icelandic volcano.

Oil languished below $85 a barrel.


The euro retreated against the dollar, snapping a five-day winning streak due to renewed worries over Greece's ability to service its sovereign debt.

Greece lurched closer toward asking for international aid, after it requested official talks with European authorities and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told euro zone finance ministers that the situation for Greek banks remains difficult and could deteriorate further.

The cost of insuring Greek sovereign debt rose some 10 basis points from Thursday's close to 428.5 bps, according to CMA DataVision.

Greek 10-year bond yields rose to 7.4 percent, pushing the 10-year Greek/German government bond yield spread wider.

Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar firmed <.DXY>, recovering from the four-week lows it slipped to mid-week.

But comments from top Federal Reserve officials showing little urgency about softening the central bank's commitment to hold interest rates low is set curb the greenback's gains.

(Additional reporting by Simon Falush; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)