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Asia: Stocks follow global gains as weaker yen buoys Japan shares


[SYDNEY] Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index on course for its longest winning streak in a year, after global equities erased 2016 losses and the yen held declines against the dollar, buoying Japanese shares.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.8 per cent to 130.97 as of 9.04 am in Tokyo, rising for a seventh day. The last time the measure posted consecutive gains for a longer period was in April last year.

The regional gauge has surged 16 per cent since Feb 12, with equities around the world extending a rally as data on Wednesday showed Chinese exports rose the most in a year last month, adding to signs the economic slowdown in Asia's biggest economy may not be as deep as some investors had feared. A gauge tracking industrial metals added 1.6 per cent.

"China's trade data provided support to commodities overnight with both iron ore and copper gaining," said Angus Nicholson, a Melbourne-based market analyst at IG Ltd.

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"This is all pointing to a strong open to the Asian session. The yen has seen a bit of weakness. This should help move the Nikkei strongly higher today."

Japan's Topix index gained 1.6 per cent as the yen traded at 109.41 per dollar after sliding 0.7 per cent on Wednesday. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 1.6 per cent.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.8 per cent ahead of the monthly jobs report for March. Gains in industrial metals and mining shares overnight followed through into Asia, with BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Group jumping 5.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 0.3 per cent after closing at a record high Wednesday.

South Korea's Kospi index increased 1.1 per cent after being closed Wednesday for parliamentary elections.

In Singapore, the central bank unexpectedly eased policy to shore up growth. It will no longer seek appreciation for the local dollar against a basket of currencies, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a statement Thursday.

Futures on the Hang Seng Index rose 0.9 per cent, while contracts on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in Hong Kong gained 0.8 per cent. Futures on the FTSE China A50 Index added 0.1 per cent.

E-mini futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.1 per cent after the underlying index gained 1 per cent Wednesday. 

JPMorgan Chase & Co advanced 4.2 per cent in New York after reporting first-quarter profit was boosted by pay cuts and trading revenue that declined less than most analysts predicted.

Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc, scheduled to release results this week, climbed at least 2.6 per cent.