U.S. futures edged higher after markets on Wall Street were closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Oil prices slipped.
Japan reported its consumer inflation rose for the first time in four months, with big gains in food prices and hotel rates as tourism has soared. The consumer price index rose 3.3% in October from a year earlier, up from 3% in September in a trend contrary to the Bank of Japan's forecasts for price pressures to abate toward the year's end.
“Both the government and the BOJ will be concerned about higher-than-expected inflation,” Robert Carnell and Min Joo Kang of ING Economics said in a commentary. That will likely lead the central bank to adjust its extremely lax monetary policy in the new year, they said.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.7% to 33,690.11.
Chinese shares fell back after recent gains driven by expectations of more government support for debt-burdened property developers. Shares in Country Garden, one of the biggest, sank 6.7% after gaining 16% the day before.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng fell 1.4% to 17,663.08. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.5% to 3,047.23.
South Korea's Kospi declined 0.5% to 2,501.09, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.2%, to 7,045.80
In Bangkok, the SET fell 0.4%, while Taiwan's Taiex edged 0.1% lower.
On Thursday, European shares edged higher in thin trading. Germany’s DAX gained 0.2% to 15,994.73 and the CAC 40 in Paris also was up 0.2%, at 7,277.93. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged 0.2% higher to 7,483.58.
Wall Street will have only a half-day’s trading on Friday. On Wednesday, before the holiday, the S&P 500 rose 0.4% and the Dow rose 0.5%. The Nasdaq gained 0.5%.
Investors are watching to see how American retailers fare with the unofficial kick off of the holiday shopping season with Black Friday, given growing concerns that spending may slow under pressure from dwindling savings, rising credit card debt and inflation.
The latest quarterly results from a string of retailers from Walmart to Best Buy to Saks Fifth Avenue suggested a weakening of consumer appetites for spending even as inflation eases and employment remains robust.
As price pressures taper off, investors have grown more optimistic that the Federal Reserve may be done with raising interest rates to rein in inflation and even might consider cutting rates.
Fed officials have said the outlook for the economy remains uncertain and decisions on rates will depend on incoming reports. The Fed will get another big update next week when the government releases its October report for a key inflation measure tracked by the central bank.
In other trading Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 64 cents to $76.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent crude, the international pricing standard, was unchanged at $81.25 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar fell to 149.40 Japanese yen from 149.54 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0902 from $1.0906.