Asia markets pick up but global fears remain

HONG KONG (AFP) - Most Asian markets moved tentatively higher Friday after Wall Street and European shares stabilised in response to upbeat US data, but traders remain on edge about the global economy and fresh fears over Greece.

With nerves calmed by the latest figures from Washington, the US dollar and euro ticked up slightly against the yen while oil prices also enjoyed a minor rally.

The Straits Times Index was trading 0.22 per cent higher at 3,161.24 at around 10.35am.

Hong Kong rose 0.35 per cent, Tokyo and Seoul were flat, Sydney added 0.49 per cent and Shanghai was 0.10 per cent higher.

Shares around the world have been hammered in recent weeks by worries about the global economy as the eurozone, China and Japan struggle to reignite growth.

Those fears increased this week when the United States, which has been the only economy showing signs of strength, came in well below expectations.

However, there was some relief Thursday when the Department of Labor said initial jobless claims for the week ending October 11 fell to their lowest level since 2000. Also, the Federal Reserve said industrial production rebounded in September from an unexpected drop in August.

The news helped Wall Street reverse morning losses, although the three main indexes still provided an anaemic lead. The Dow dipped 0.15 per cent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were marginally higher.

It also helped the dollar and euro pick up against the yen, which is considered a safe haven in times of turmoil.

In morning trade the dollar bought 106.36 yen, compared with 106.33 yen in New York Thursday.

The euro bought $1.2812 and 136.16 yen against $1.2809 and 136.19 yen.

TWorld oil prices edged up. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for November delivery was up 59 cents to US$83.28 - the contract has rallied after briefly falling below $80 a barrel Thursday for the first time since June 2012. Brent crude for December delivery climbed 77 cents to US$86.59.

Gold was at US$1,238.00 an ounce against US$1,241.90 late Thursday.