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Asian Shares Broadly Higher After Dovish Fed Comments

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Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Friday after China's Commerce Ministry said trade talks with the U.S. in Beijing were extensive and helped establish a "foundation" to resolve differences.

Prospects for more Chinese stimulus to arrest the slowdown in growth and rising expectations that the Federal Reserve will pause its rate tightening cycle this year also underpinned sentiment.

China's Shanghai Composite Index climbed 18.73 points or 0.7 percent to 2,553.83, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 145.84 points or 0.6 percent to close at 26,667.27.

Japanese shares posted strong gains after Wall Street extended its rally into a fifth straight day on Thursday. The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 195.90 points or 1 percent to 20,359.70, taking overall gains for the week to 4.1 percent, the biggest weekly gain in more than two months. The broader Topix closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,529.73.

Advantest, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Takeda Pharma and Hitachi climbed 4-9 percent. Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing rallied 6.2 percent despite reporting an unexpected decline in quarterly profit.

Olympus Corp. soared almost 10 percent to reach a nearly three-month high after the medical equipment and camera maker said it would propose to give top shareholder U.S. hedge fund ValueAct Capital a board seat.

Meanwhile, FamilyMart UNY Holdings declined 2.5 percent after its sales for the March-November period fell 1.7 percent.

In economic news, Japan had a current account surplus of 757.2 billion yen in November, the Ministry of Finance said, exceeding expectations for a surplus of 566.3 billion yen but down from 1,309.9 billion yen in October.

The trade balance reflected a deficit of 559.1 billion yen versus expectations for a shortfall of 612.6 billion yen.

Another report showed that the average of household spending in Japan rose 0.3 percent year-over-year in November.

Australian markets fell modestly amid a lack of a clear resolution to the U.S.-China trade talks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 20.70 points or 0.4 percent to 5,774.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 19.10 points or 0.3 percent at 5,834.80.

An overnight decrease in copper and iron ore prices pulled down miners, with heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto falling 1.1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Gold miner Evolution Mining and Northern Star fell over 2 percent despite gold prices rising on a weaker dollar.

On the other hand, Treasury Wine Estates jumped 4.3 percent after saying it expects earnings above consensus estimates. JB Hi-Fi rallied 2.6 percent as retail sales figures for November beat expectations.

Australian retail sales grew a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent month-on-month in November, exceeding expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the October reading.

Another report revealed that the construction sector in Australia contracted a faster rate in December.

Seoul stocks ended higher amid signs of progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations and dovish commentary from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The benchmark Kospi climbed 12.29 points or 0.6 percent to 2,075.57. Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 1.8 percent and tobacco firm KT&G Corp gained 1 percent.

New Zealand shares advanced, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index finishing up 40.42 points or 0.5 percent at 8,959.58, led by financials, healthcare and realty stocks.

The total number of building permits issued in New Zealand in November fell a seasonally adjusted 2.0 percent, Statistics New Zealand said. That follows the downwardly revised 1.4 percent increase in October.

Overnight, U.S. stocks recovered from early losses to finish higher for the fifth consecutive session despite disappointing holiday sales from Macy's, lower revenue guidance from American Airlines and concerns that a longer government shutdown will hit the economy.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell predicted no recession in 2019 and said the U.S. central bank will be patient in raising interest rates further.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both rose around half a percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4 percent.

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