The U.S. survey contrasted with equivalent surveys for Europe and China, which had weighed on trading earlier.

A weak manufacturing survey, however, hit the British pound hard. It was trading 1.1 percent lower at $1.4997, its first fall below $1.50 since July 2010.

Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index gained 0.4 percent to 11,606.38 on expectations that the Bank of Japan will push ahead with more drastic monetary easing under its future new governor, Haruhiko Kuroda. He requires parliamentary approval, before he succeeds current BOJ governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, when he steps down on Mar. 19.

Elsewhere in Asia, markets were lower as China's manufacturing grew at its weakest rate in five months in February as demand faltered and factories shut down for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.6 percent to 22,880.22. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 5,086.10. South Korean markets were closed for a public holiday. Mainland China's benchmark fell 0.3 percent to 2,359.51.

Benchmark crude for April delivery fell $1.36 to $90.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this story from Tokyo.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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