Asian markets mostly higher

Asian markets mostly higher

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly higher on Friday following another strong lead from Wall Street, where traders took heart from more upbeat US jobs numbers.

The yen edged up in morning trade despite Japanese lawmakers giving final approval to the government's nominees to take the helm at the Bank of Japan, with expectations high that it will usher in more aggressive monetary easing.

Tokyo rose 0.84 percent, Hong Kong was 0.34 percent higher, Sydney added 1.07 percent and Shanghai was up 0.10 percent. Seoul fell 0.50 percent.

On Wall Street, traders welcomed US Labor Department data showing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week for the third week in a row, signalling continuing improvement in the jobs market.

The S&P 500, which includes all major segments of the US economy, climbed 0.56 percent to end just short of its all-time high close set in October 2007.

And the Dow was up 0.58 percent, breaking its all-time record for the eighth straight day. It was the Dow's 10th consecutive rise.

However, while the unemployment numbers were welcomed, the dollar fell to 96.08 yen in New York from 96.40 yen in Asia earlier Thursday.

In morning Tokyo trade Friday the dollar fetched 96.00 yen.

The yen extended its rise even after the upper house of Japan's parliament gave the green light to Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan governor, as well as to Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso as his deputies.

The three men are expected to usher in a new era for the BoJ as Tokyo demands more action to boost the world's third-biggest economy, with Kuroda saying he will do all he can to achieve the bank's new 2.0 percent inflation target.

Focus will now be trained on the bank's next policy meeting next month to see what tools the new leadership will use to kickstart the Japanese economy and drag it out of deflation.

The euro bought $1.3011 and 124.89 yen against $1.3000 and 124.91 yen.

In Seoul, electronics giant Samsung fell 2.30 percent after it unveiled its new Galaxy S4 smartphone in New York late Thursday with a bigger screen and upgrades to its software.

"It's not because the Galaxy S4 failed to meet expectations. It's just that investors feel technical smartphone upgrades are flattening out," Bae Seung-Young of Hyundai Securities told AFP.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, increasing 22 cents to $93.25 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery gaining 38 cents to $109.34.

Gold was at $1,591.90 an ounce at 0255 GMT compared with $1,584.80 late Thursday.


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