Nikkei hits new 15-year high ahead of US jobs data

Asian shares traded mostly higher on Friday, supported by a stronger close on Wall Street overnight, with Tokyo markets scaling fresh multi-year records. Also on the agenda was the release of U.S. nonfarm payrolls later in the day.

Overnight, U.S. stocks broke a two-day losing streak to finish higher amid details of quantitative easing in the euro zone and anticipation of Friday’s U.S. jobs report. February jobs data are scheduled for release before the opening bell; analysts expect about 240,000 nonfarm payrolls, below last month’s 257,000.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 inched up 0.1 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite finished 0.3 percent higher.

Indian markets are closed for public holiday.

Nikkei rises 1.1%

Trading just below the 19,000 milestone, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index touched a fresh 15-year high on the back of a weaker yen, which last traded at 120 to the dollar. Among exporters, Nintendo (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7974.T-JP), Honda (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7267.T-JP) and Panasonic (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6752.T-JP) notched up more than 1 percent each.

FamilyMart (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8028.T-JP) and UNY Group Holdings (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8270.T-JP) are in the spotlight after saying they are considering various tie-up options, including mergers, with other firms. While the former retreated 2.9 percent, the latter rallied 8.7 percent.

Recruit Holdings (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6098.T-JP) fell 1.7 percent after announcing plans to buy German online restaurant reservation service provider Quandoo GmbH for $ 219 million.

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Mainland indices up

China’s Shanghai Composite index nudged up 0.4 percent as blue-chip stocks such as the property developers and financials traded broadly higher.

Bank of Communications and Bank of China (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 1988-SZ) added 1.1 percent each, after falling over 2 percent each on Thursday, while Poly Real Estate and China Vanke trimmed gains to 0.3 and 0.6 percent, respectively.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index recovered from Thursday’s three-week low, inching up 0.1 percent in early trade. Shares of HKEx (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 388-HK) rose 0.7 percent following the release of annual profit results in the previous session.

ASX falls 0.1%

Australia’s resource-heavy S&P ASX 200 index fell short of broader advances in the region, hurt by a slump in iron ore prices overnight, while the Australian dollar (Exchange:USDAUD=) edged up 0.2 percent to $ 0.7796 against the U.S. dollar.

Miners were among the biggest laggards; Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG-AU) slumped 6.1 percent, while BHP Billiton (London Stock Exchange: BLT-GB) and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO-AU) lost more than 1 percent each. Junior miners Atlas Iron (ASX:AGO-AU) and BC Iron (ASX:BCI-AU) made it to the list of top losers, with a plunge of more than 5 percent each.

Regis Resources (ASX:RRL-AU) was battered, down 26.7 percent, after the gold miner reported “lower-than-expected production” over the January-March period and announced a debt restructure with Macquarie (ASX:MQG-AU).

Energy-related counters such as Oil Search (ASX:OSH-AU) also traded 2.5 percent lower.

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Kospi up 0.7%

South Korea’s Kospi index appears set to finish the week at a five-month high of 2,013 on the back of a positive showing by tech players and automakers.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors (Korea Stock Exchange: 27-KR) elevated 3.6 and 2.2 percent, respectively. Within the tech space, Samsung Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) and Samsung SDI (Korea Stock Exchange: 640-KR) led gains by more than 1 percent each.

– CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report

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