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Asia rises after Wall Street hits record highs, China data awaited

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[TOKYO] Asian stocks rose slightly in early Friday trade, taking a cue from Wall Street's records overnight, before switching focus to a run of economic indicators from China.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.1 per cent. It was headed to gain 1.9 per cent on the week, having brushed a one-year high on Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.8 per cent on a slightly weaker yen. South Korea's Kospi added 0.5 per cent and Australian stocks gained 0.7 per cent.

The S&P 500, the Dow and Nasdaq all closed at historic highs on Thursday for the first time since 1999 on higher crude oil and upbeat corporate results.

Supporting investor appetite for risk, oil prices climbed more than 4 per cent overnight after a Saudi oil minister hinted towards possible action to stabilise prices and triggered a round of buying.

"Asia Pacific markets are set to finish the week on a high following strong leads from European and US investors," wrote Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"Industrial commodities rose, led by oil, and overnight trading displayed 'risk on' characteristics despite the lack of an obvious trigger. Important data from China may change the course of the trading day."

Chinese indicators to be released on Friday include industrial output and retail sales.

The global markets will also sift through the string of US data, notably retail sales, due later in the session for latest cues about the world's largest economy and whether it is robust enough to withstand further monetary tightening.

US retail sales are expected to show a 0.4 per cent monthly increase in July, according to the median estimate of 64 economists polled by Reuters.

In currencies, the US dollar was little changed at 101.830 yen after gaining 0.7 per cent on Thursday. The euro was steady at US$1.1138 after losing 0.3 per cent overnight.

The greenback rose after San Francisco Fed President John Williams told the Washington Post that the US central bank should raise rates this year because of improving labour market conditions and the likelihood that inflation is heading higher.

The New Zealand dollar was firm at US$0.7210 after surging on Thursday to US$0.7351, its highest in more than a year on, after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut rates by 25 basis points to 2 per cent, a smaller cut than some investors had expected.

The Australian dollar dipped 0.1 per cent to US$0.7694 .

Oil prices rode the momentum from their overnight rally and extended gains. US crude was up 0.5 per cent at US$43.73 a barrel , on track to gain nearly 5 per cent on the week.