Investing.com

Investing.com - The Japanese yen remained slightly weaker in Asia Friday in a light data day, but the Australian dollar reversed course and gained steadily.



The Conference Board''s April leading economic index for China rose 0.9% to 288.1, signalling continued tepid gains.



"The LEI for China increased in April," said Andrew Polk, resident economist at the Conference Board China Center in Beijing.



"But its overall expansion remains weaker than the latter half of 2013 and underlying volatility in the economy has increased. Subdued LEI growth, combined with growth rates in industrial activity and retail sales running at their lowest since 2004, suggest that the slower trend of economic growth will continue into the third quarter at least."



USD/JPY traded at 101.79, up 0.06%, while AUD/USD reversed earlier falls and gained to 0.9247, up 0.22%.



Overnight, the dollar firmed against most major currencies on solid U.S. factory and housing data that came a day after the Federal Reserve revealed monetary authorities are moving closer to normalizing ultra-loose policies that have softened the greenback since the 2008 financial crisis



The National Association of Realtors reported earlier that U.S. existing home sales increased 1.3% in April to an annual rate of 4.65 million units.



Analysts were expecting existing home sales to rise 2.2% to 4.68 million last month, however, April''s increase indicated that the housing market continues to improve.



A separate report showed that U.S. manufacturing activity expanded at a faster rate than expected this month. London-based Markit Economics reported earlier that its preliminary U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers'' index rose to 56.2 from a final reading of 55.4 in April, beating expectations of 55.5.



The data came after the Labor Department reported that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits last week increased by 28,000 to 326,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 298,000. Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 12,000 to 310,000, though markets shrugged off the data.



On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of its April policy meeting, which revealed the U.S. central bank plans to continue tapering its monthly bond-buying program and rely on other tools to normalize monetary policy, though actual rate hikes won''t come for a considerable amount of time.



Elsewhere a preliminary reading of China’s HSBC manufacturing index rose to a five-month high of 49.7, beating expectations for a 48.1 reading, though the figure still remained below the 50 mark separating contraction from expansion.



Meanwhile in Europe, data released earlier revealed that manufacturing activity in the region expanded at the slowest rate in six months in May, but the region’s service sector expanded at its fastest rate in almost three years.



The euro zone flash manufacturing purchasing managers’ index slid to 52.5 this month from 53.4 in April, missing expectations for a 53.2 reading, according to Markit Economics.



The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, rose 0.02% at 80.30.



On Friday, the U.S. is to round up the week with data on new homes sales.



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