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Asian Shares Rise On US Tax Reform Hopes

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Asian stocks rose broadly on Friday after the Nasdaq Composite hit record high overnight, buoyed by solid earnings led by American Express and on optimism for a U.S. tax overhaul.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated on Thursday that the Trump administration is close to bringing forward a major tax reform plan "very soon", regardless of the outcome of a healthcare overhaul bill.

The Japanese yen weakened and crude prices rose after four days of losses, further supporting sentiment heading toward the Sunday presidential election in France. The outcome is too close to call, although polls show centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron with a narrow lead.

Investors also kept an eye on other developments in France after a French policeman was shot dead in Paris and two others were wounded in a suspected terrorist attack.

Chinese stocks eked out marginal gains but posted their worst weekly loss this year on concerns over cooling growth and tightening regulatory scrutiny.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index inched up 1.05 points or 0.03 percent to 3,173.15, but ended the week with a 2.2 percent loss. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 45 points or 0.19 percent at 24,017 in late trade.

Japanese shares hit 1-1/2 week highs as bets that U.S. tax reforms are gaining traction and comments from a Federal Reserve official affirming that three Fed rate hikes this year remain appropriate helped weaken the yen against the dollar.

Also, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday that the central bank will continue with very accommodative monetary policy for some time to ensure price stability.

The Nikkei average jumped 190.26 points or 1.03 percent to 18,620.75, its highest level since April 11, while the broader Topix index closed 1.07 percent higher at 1,488.58.

Exporters closed mostly higher, with Honda Motor, Toyota and Panasonic rising 1-2 percent. Daiwa Securities Group advanced 1.1 percent after it acquired a stake in COL Financial Group.

Fujifilm Holdings slumped 4 percent after delaying the release of its four-quarter earnings following accounting irregularities at an overseas unit.

On the economic front, activity in Japan's manufacturing sector continued to expand in April, the latest survey from Nikkei showed with a manufacturing PMI score of 52.8, up from 52.4 in March.

Australian shares extended gains from the previous session as rising iron ore and Chinese steel futures triggered a rally in mining stocks.

Financial stocks also finished solidly higher on expectations that they may see some near-term earnings growth as a result of their recent mortgage rate increases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 32.70 points or 0.56 percent to 5,854.10, while the broader All Ordinaries index closed up 31.20 points or 0.53 percent at 5,885.60.

Miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group jumped 2-5 percent, while the big four banks rose between half a percent and 1 percent.

Utility Duet Group soared 9.5 percent as the government approved its $5.5 billion takeover by Cheung Kong Infrastructure consortium. Soft drink giant Coca-Cola Amatil slumped 10.5 percent after issuing a profit warning.

Seoul shares rose notably to close near a three-week high amid interest from foreign investors. The benchmark Kospi rose 15.89 points or 0.74 percent to 2,165.04, the highest level since April 3.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 9.17 points or 0.13 percent to 7,197.22, with the a2 Milk Company, Air New Zealand and Trade Me Group pacing gainers.

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was moving up 0.9 percent after the country's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged for the sixth month in a row.

Elsewhere, Malaysia's KLSE Composite was gaining 0.6 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index was adding 0.4 percent and the Taiwan Weighted advanced 0.9 percent, while India's Sensex was moving down 0.3 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks rallied as a round of solid earnings and comments from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin helped outweigh disappointing data on the labor market and the manufacturing sector.

The Dow rose 0.9 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also gained 0.9 percent to reach a fresh record closing high, while the S&P 500 added 0.8 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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