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Asian markets mostly higher at end of strong week

Asian markets mostly rose on Friday, with the dollar again breaking 120 yen while the euro held onto gains after the European Central Bank shied away from fresh stimulus measures.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose on Friday, with the dollar again breaking 120 yen while the euro held onto gains after the European Central Bank shied away from fresh stimulus measures.

Traders overcame early profit-taking, triggered by losses on Wall Street, ending the week on a high note ahead of the release of US jobs data.

Tokyo rose 0.19 per cent, or 33.24 points, extending their winning streak for a sixth straight day to end at a new seven-year high of 17,920.45.

Shanghai climbed 1.32 per cent, or 38.19 points, to 2,937.65 and Hong Kong added 0.71 per cent, or 170.08 points, to 24,002.64, as investors pumped in vast amounts of cash in hope of fresh economy-boosting measures from China.

Seoul closed flat, edging up 0.01 points to 1,986.62.

Sydney, however, closed 0.62 per cent lower, dipping 33.5 points to 5,335.30 with energy firms hit by weak oil prices.

Regional shares have enjoyed a strong week, boosted by a slew of strong US economic data and several new record highs on Wall Street.

Friday's gains came despite disappointment that the ECB refused to embark on any new stimulus at its policy meeting, even though it cut its already weak growth and inflation forecasts for the eurozone.

President Mario Draghi said fresh measures to kick-start the bloc's moribund economy - similar to those already taken in Britain, Japan and the US - were already being prepared in case the outlook worsened.

"Should it become necessary to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation, the governing council remains unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional instruments," he said.

"This would imply altering early next year the size, pace and composition of our measures." Mr Draghi stressed, however, that "early next year" did not necessarily mean the bank's next meeting in January.

The news dragged on Wall Street, where the Dow eased 0.07 per cent, the S&P 500 dipped 0.12 per cent and the Nasdaq declined 0.11 per cent.

"Investors were looking for Europe to come with a grand plan. Every time they push it off," said Steven Rosen, a managing director at Societe Generale.

But it supported the euro, which had come under selling pressure ahead of the meeting, pushing it to $1.2380 and 148.27 yen in New York Thursday, from $1.2300 and 147.62 yen earlier in the day in Tokyo.

On Friday, the European single currency fetched $1.2380 and 148.78 yen.

In other foreign exchange trades, the dollar nudged back above the 120 yen mark after passing briefly it in London Thursday for the first time since July 2007.

The greenback was at 120.16 yen, up from its 119.77 yen level late in New York.

The dollar has enjoyed strong support against the Japanese currency thanks to a raft of data showing the US economy is on a recovery track, as well as the Bank of Japan's decision to ramp up its stimulus programme.

Crude prices remained stuck around five-year lows after the OPEC oil cartel's decision to maintain output levels despite a global glut.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery tumbled 50 cents to US$66.31 a barrel in afternoon trade and Brent crude for January dropped 41 cents to $69.23.

Gold was at US$1,203.58 an ounce, compared with $1,203.88 late Thursday.

In other markets: - Taipei fell 0.20 per cent, or 18.54 points, to 9,206.57.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. slipped 1.08 per cent to NT$137.5 while Acer rose 0.97 per cent to NT$20.9.

- Wellington was flat, edging up 0.77 points to 5,522.68.

Contact Energy rose 0.63 per cent to NZ$6.36 and Fletcher Building added 1.19 per cent to close at NZ$8.50.

- Manila closed 1.22 per cent, or 88.71 points, to end at 7,211.14.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone plunged 3.33 per cent to 2,842.00 pesos and Bloomberry Resorts lost 1.09 per cent to end at 12.66 pesos, while Metropolitan Bank shed 0.24 per cent to 82.60 pesos.

- Mumbai fell 0.37 per cent, or 104.72 points, to end at 28,458.10.

Dr Reddy's Laboratories fell 2.23 per cent to 3,394.65 rupees, while diversified conglomerate ITC gained 2.27 per cent to 391.45 rupees.

- Jakarta ended up 0.21 per cent, or 10.83 points, at 5,187.99.

Palm oil firm Astra Agro Lestari gained 4.16 per cent to 24,400 rupiah, while state-controlled miner Aneka Tambang slipped 1.53 per cent to 965 rupiah.

- Malaysia's main stock index gained 0.21 per cent, or 3.68 points, to close at 1,749.37.

SapuraKencana Petroleum added 0.8 per cent to 2.51 ringgit, while Tenaga Nasional rose 3.8 per cent to 13.60. Budget carrier AirAsia fell 1.4 per cent to 2.74 ringgit.

- Singapore rose 0.59 per cent, or 19.57 points, to close at 3,324.39.

Oil rig-maker Keppel Corp gained 0.12 per cent to end at Sg$8.27 and Singapore Telecom finished 0.80 per cent higher at S$3.90.

- Bangkok was closed for a public holiday.