"With global prices on the rise, investors may well use any negative news here as a chance to book profits," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

The figures are released a day after producer price data stoked worries that the U.S. economy may be joining Europe and China in exhibiting an inflationary spike.

Inflation is certainly becoming the hot topic in Europe, with price rises in the eurozone and Britain ahead of their respective banks' targets.

Andrew Sentance, perhaps the most hawkish member of the Bank of England's nine-strong rate-setting panel, kept the pressure on his peers to raise interest rates soon. In a speech, Sentance warned that the bank's inflation projections may be underestimating the true level of price rises and that interest rates will have to rise faster than markets currently anticipate.

His comments helped the pound advance from $1.60 to $1.6030.

That was the main movement in currency markets Thursday, with the euro trading unchanged at $1.3575 and the dollar a tad higher at 83.58 yen.

Earlier in Asia, Japan led markets higher as investors breathed a sigh of relief that the yen's recent appreciation has come to an end as the Japanese currency trades at near two-month lows against the dollar. The Nikkei 225 stock average rose 28.35 points, or 0.3%, to close at 10,836.64 -- ending at a 10-month high for the fourth session in a row.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6% to 23,301.84. Mainland Chinese shares also edged higher, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index adding 0.1% to 2,926.96, while the Shenzhen Composite Index for China's smaller, second market gained 0.3% to 1,286.73.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 46 cents at $84.51 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 67 cents to settle at $84.99 on Wednesday.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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