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Upbeat data spreads cheer to Asian shares

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares rose in early trading on Thursday after economic data suggested the global economy is expanding, which took the edge off persistent fears of the U.S. Federal Reserve's likely withdrawal of stimulus.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.2 percent, moving away from a six-week low touched on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei stock average .N225 gained 2.0 percent.

Global equity markets rose on Thursday, with European shares registering their best session since early this month and all three U.S. indexes ending higher despite a system glitch that stopped trading of more than 3,000 Nasdaq-listed shares for almost three hours.

Purchasing managers surveys showed better-than-expected growth in the euro zone, a Chinese manufacturing rebound and U.S. manufacturing activity rising to a five-month high this month.

"These are positive catalysts as those countries are Japan's major export markets," said Toshihiko Matsuno, senior strategist at SMBC Friend Securities In Tokyo.

"Yesterday's China's upbeat PMI data soothed the mood while some investors were frustrated over concerns regarding emerging countries. And therefore investors were not ready to turn 'risk on' yet. The data from the U.S. and Europe reassured them," he said.

U.S. Labor Department data also showed new claims for jobless benefits held near a six-year low last week, adding to signs the U.S. employment situation is stabilizing.

But the brighter U.S. data had a dark underbelly that some strategists said would limit market gains, as it reinforced expectations that the economy is strong enough for the Fed to begin tapering its stimulus as early as next month. That could draw more capital out of emerging countries.

The dollar .DXY was up slightly against a basket of currencies at 81.551. On Thursday, it broke through initial resistance at 81.604, its 200-day moving average, to hit a one-week peak of 81.719.

The dollar rose 0.2 percent against the Japanese currency to 98.91 yen after hitting 98.93 yen earlier, its highest since August 5, while the euro was down slightly at $1.3345.

In commodities trading, copper prices slipped 0.2 percent to $7,309 a tonne, but were supported by the Chinese manufacturing data that suggested demand from the world's second-biggest economy and top metals consumer could pick up.

Gold slipped slightly to $1,372.49 per ounce. The precious metal was also buoyed by the China PMI but was at the same time pressured by upbeat global economic data and expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon taper its stimulus.

Brent crude prices were up slightly at $109.97 a barrel. Rising political tensions in the Middle East and North Africa have bolstered oil prices this week, but reports of some Libyan ports readying for exports eased supply concerns.

(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo and Jungmin Jang in Seoul; Editing by Eric Meijer)