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Asian Shares Follow Wall Street Higher

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Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Monday even as trading volumes remained thin amid the "Coming of Age" holiday in Japan. Global growth optimism underpinned sentiment as investors looked ahead to a slew of regional earnings later this week for directional cues.

The dollar held steady above a recent 3-1/2-month low against a basket of currencies after U.S. job growth fell well short of estimates in December, but a pick-up in monthly wage gains pointed to labor market strength, paving the way for more rate hikes in 2018.

Chinese shares extended gains for the seventh straight session after the city of Lanzhou eased property curbs. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 0.52 percent to close at 3,409.48, a six-week high, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was marginally higher at 30,841 in late trade.

Australian shares extended gains for a fourth consecutive session, led higher by financials. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index pared early gains to finish 8.10 points or 0.13 percent higher at 6,130.40 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 6.80 points or 0.11 percent at 6,236.50.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac rose between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent while hearing implant maker Cochlear advanced 1.2 percent and real estate investment trust Dexus Property Group gained 2 percent.

Miner Fortescue Metals fell as much as 2.2 percent as commodity prices lost steam after recent strong gains. Gold miner Newcrest shed 0.7 percent and Evolution dropped 1.5 percent.

Suncorp Group fell 1.2 percent after the insurer said it expects the financial impact of Melbourne's December hailstorm on its first-half results to be between A$160 million and A$170 million.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the construction sector in Australia continued to expand in December, although at a much slower rate, with an index score of 52.8, down sharply from 57.5 in November.

Seoul shares ended higher, led by financials, automakers and chemical companies on optimism over U.S. tax cuts. The benchmark Kospi rose 15.76 points or 0.63 percent to finish at 2,513.28.

LG Chem soared 4.8 percent and rival Lotte Chemical jumped as much as 9.1 percent while market heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 0.2 percent ahead of release of its fourth-quarter earnings guidance Tuesday.

New Zealand shares fell slightly and the kiwi dollar rose after a weaker than expected U.S. jobs report. The benchmark S&P/NZX50 index eased 30.07 points or 0.36 percent to 8,425.48, with Fletcher Building, Sky Network Television and Metro Performance Glass losing 2-3 percent. Food products manufacturers such as Comvita, A2 Milk and Synlait Milk were among the top performers.

Benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Malaysia were up between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent.

U.S. stocks closed at record highs on Friday as optimism about tax reform helped investors shrug off a disappointing batch of readings on non-farm employment and service sector growth. The Dow rose 0.9 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 0.7 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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