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Asian Shares Mostly Higher Ahead Of US Jobs Data

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Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street after Congress passed a $4.1 trillion budget resolution and data on jobless claims, factory orders and trade balance pointed to underlying strength in the economy.

Overall gains, however, remained muted ahead of the U.S. September nonfarm payrolls report, due out later in the day. Employment is expected to rise by 90,000 jobs in September after climbing by 156,000 jobs in August. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 4.4 percent

Japanese shares hit two-year high, with a weakening yen on hopes for U.S. tax reform as well as record highs on Wall Street giving local markets a lift.

The Nikkei average finished 62.15 points or 0.30 percent higher at 20,690.71 while the broader Topix index closed 0.28 percent higher at 1,687.16. Among the top gainers, Kobe Steel, Mitsubishi Motors, Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Fast Retailing and Sumitomo Metal Mining jumped 2-4 percent.

MS&AD Insurance advanced 1.6 percent after it agreed to invest 800 million pounds, or $1.5 billion, to acquire a stake of up to 15 percent in Swiss Re's UK-based unit ReAssure Jersey One Ltd.

Australian shares rallied, led by financial and material stocks after major U.S. indexes rose solidly overnight to reach fresh record closing highs for the fourth day running.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 58.90 points or 1.04 percent to 5,710.70 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 57.10 points or 1.00 percent at 5,777.40.

Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rallied around 2 percent each and healthcare firm CSL rose 1.2 percent as the Aussie dollar continued to fall following Thursday's dismal retail sales data.

Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos gained between 1.6 percent and 2.3 percent after crude oil prices rebounded to above $50 a barrel overnight. The big four banks all ended up more than 1 percent.

Investors shrugged off a survey from the Australian Industry Group, which showed that Australia's construction sector expanded at a slower pace in September.

New Zealand shares ended little changed as investors awaited Saturday's final vote count. The benchmark S&P NZX-50 index closed marginally higher at 7,977.34 as A2Milk and Synlait Milk fell sharply after recent gains.

On the positive side, Meridian Energy, Port of Tauranga and Orion Health Group climbed around 2 percent each.

Chinese and South Korean markets were closed for trading. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was moving up 0.1 percent as trading resumed after Thursday's holiday. The index briefly hit its highest level in a decade earlier in the day.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite was marginally higher after official data showed the country's exports surged at a faster-than-expected pace in August.

The Taiwan Weighted edged up 0.1 percent and benchmark indexes in India and Singapore were up around 0.6 percent while Indonesian shares were marginally lower.

by RTT Staff Writer

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