Asian markets outside Hong Kong trade higher on 9 October
Tokyo Stock Exchange employees working at the bourse (Reuters)

Asian shares edged up in early trade on Friday 17 April, shrugging off a languid performance on Wall Street after another set of lacklustre US economic data.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added about 0.2% in early trade, extending a seven-year high touched in the previous session and on track for weekly gains over 1%.

US stocks had earlier ended with modest losses amid worries about upcoming corporate earnings reports.

Overnight, US data showed housing starts rose far less than expected in March and factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region grew modestly, 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 US electronic broker Interactive Brokers LLC, wrote in a note to clients.

US unlikely to hike interest rates in June

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank president Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the Fed's rate-setting committee this year, said the recent "murky" run of US data means he is currenrtly opposed to a June interest rate hike. Lockhart quickly added he was confident the economy will remain on track.

Comments from Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren also struck doveish tones.

Fading expectations for a June rate hike pressured the US dollar. The currency unit bought ¥119.01, nearly flat on the day but well off this week's high of ¥120.845.

The euro bought $1.0773, up about 0.1% on the day after climbing as high as $1.0818 on Thursday despite rising concerns about Greece's financial woes.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Reuters on Thursday he was "firmly optimistic" his government would reach an agreement with its creditors by the end of April despite friction over issues such as pension and labour reform.