Asian Equities Trying to Ignore U.S. Lead

Asian shares edged up in early trade on Friday, on track to score weekly gains and shrugging off a languid performance on Wall Street after another set of lackluster U.S. economic data.  MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added about 0.2 percent in early trade, extending a seven-year high touched in the previous session and on track for weekly gains over 1 percent.

U.S. stocks ended with modest losses amid worries about upcoming corporate earnings reports.  Japan’s Nikkei stock average. slipped 0.6 percent, poised for a weekly loss around 0.5 percent. After breaking the 20,000 level for the first time in 15 years a week ago, the Nikkei has wobbled below it.

Overnight, U.S. data showed housing starts rose far less than expected in March and factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region grew modestly this month, suggesting the economic momentum will probably not be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to decide to start raising interest rates as early as June.  “The report marks more of the same slow and dull picture of health investors have recently become accustomed to for the domestic economy,” Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at U.S. electronic broker Interactive Brokers LLC, said in a note to clients.