By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO (Reuters) - An index of Asian shares rose to fresh seven-year highs on Friday, on track for a weekly gain after Nasdaq rose to a record, while the dollar stuck to recent ranges after more lackluster U.S. economic data.
The buoyant mood was seen as likely to carry over into European trading, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to open up 0.3 percent, Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> 0.6 percent higher and France's CAC 40 <.FCHI> up as much as 0.4 percent.
"Although yesterday was a mixed bag for Europe, what with weak economic data and lingering jitters over Greece, the rising tide of new all-time highs in the Nasdaq looks like it will lift all boats his morning," Jonathan Sudaria, a dealer at Capital Spreads, said in a note.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> was up 0.4 percent, after marking its highest level since January 2008. For the week, it was on track to add about 0.6 percent.
China stocks slipped after the country's securities regulator said it would accelerate approval of initial public offerings in an apparent effort to cool the red hot market. Late on Thursday, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) approved a new batch of 25 IPOs, and said it would publish two lists of approved IPOs each month, up from one currently.
This shows that "regulators are concerned with the pace of the current market rally," said Xiao Shijun, analyst at Guodu Securities in Beijing. "It will bring some short-term pressure to the market."
The CSI300 index <.CSI300> fell 1.4 percent while the Shanghai Composite Index <.SSEC> lost 1 percent, with both still on track for robust weekly gains.
Japan's Nikkei stock index <.N225> ended down 0.8 percent after hitting a 15-year peak on Thursday, but was still up 1.9 percent for the week.
NASDAQ AT RECORD
On Wall Street on Thursday, the Nasdaq pushed above its previous record set in March 2000, the height of the dot.com boom.
But weak readings on U.S. jobless claims, manufacturing and home sales contrasted with the shining share market performance.
A larger-than-expected 11.4 percent drop in new home sales in March, together with disappointing global factory data, rekindled doubts about whether the economy is strong enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year as widely expected, and gave investors an excuse to reduce long positions in the dollar.
"Clearly the market is pushing back expectations of a Fed hike," Mitul Kotecha, head of FX strategy, Asia-Pacific for Barclays in Singapore, said on a visit to Tokyo this week. "It's certainly something that clients are nervous about."
While a June increase in U.S. interest rates looks unlikely, he said the Fed is still poised to hike later this year depending on economic data.
"Any weakness in the dollar's ascent will be temporary, with strengthening likely toward the year-end," he said.
The dollar was steady on the day at 119.54 yen <JPY=>, below its overnight high of 120.10 yen.
The greenback bought $1.0801 <EUR=> against the euro, which was down about 0.2 percent on the day but above its overnight low of $1.0666, after rebounding on signs that Greece was making progress in securing fresh funds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday everything must be done to prevent Greece running out of money before it reaches a cash-for-reform deal with its international creditors.
Oil prices were on track for weekly gains but came off the overnight highs after Saudi Arabia and its allies continued bombing missions in Yemen that raised concerns about the security of Middle East oil supplies.
Brent crude <LCOc1> touched a high of $65.58 on Thursday, its highest since December, but was last down 0.5 percent on the day at $64.53 a barrel. U.S. crude <CLc1> was down about 0.7 percent at $57.36.
Spot gold <XAU=> was slightly lower on the day at $1,191.40 an ounce, poised for its third straight weekly drop amid uncertainty over when the Fed will begin to hike rates.
(Additional reporting by Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada in Shanghai and Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo; Editing by Kim Coghill)