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Asia: Stocks mostly higher, focus on US jobs data


[HONG KONG] Asian markets were broadly higher Friday following another record close on Wall Street, while the Nikkei resumed its surge as a brief rally in the yen fizzled out.

Traders were also buoyed by comments from the head of the European Central Bank that it was ready to widen its stimulus programme to support the eurozone economy.

Tokyo rose 0.74 per cent a day after easing for the first time this week on profit-taking. The index has soared more than 10 per cent since last Wednesday, helped by the Bank of Japan's surprise announcement that it will widen its own monetary base.

Sydney added 0.41 per cent, Seoul added 0.11 per cent and Shanghai was 0.10 per cent higher but Hong Kong dipped 0.57 per cent.

US shares extended their recent advance ahead of the release later Friday of closely watched October jobs data, with expectations for a healthy gain.

The Dow climbed 0.40 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.38 per cent, both to new highs, while the Nasdaq added 0.38 per cent.

Analysts said support was also provided by comments from ECB president Mario Draghi signalling it was ready to introduce fresh measures to counter deflation and boost growth in the ailing eurozone.

"Should it become necessary to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation, the governing council is unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional instruments within its mandate," Draghi said after the bank's latest policy meeting.

The news put downward pressure on the euro, which hit a more than two-year low against the dollar.

The single currency was at US$1.2374 in early Asian trade, against US$1.2371 in New York, where it fell below US$1.2400 for the first time since August 2012.

It was also at 142.57 yen compared with 142.47 yen, but sharply down from the 143.20 yen earlier Thursday in Tokyo.

The dollar resumed its upward trend against the yen after a brief dip Thursday. It bought 115.35 yen early Friday, up from 115.16 yen in New York Thursday afternoon.

The yen's plunge has sent Japanese shares, particularly exporters, higher. Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities, said: "The Bank of Japan's aggressive quantitative easing... is likely to continue to influence the market via currency level fluctuations - mostly to the upside.

"It's likely that the fallout effect will continue through mid-December, keeping stock prices relatively well-supported," Miura told Dow Jones Newswires.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 20 cents to US$77.71 while Brent crude eased 29 cents to US$82.57.

Gold was at US$1,141.04 an ounce, compared with $1,144.41 late Thursday.


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