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Asian Shares Lackluster As Investors Await Progress On Trade


Asian stocks ended on a muted note Friday as the initial euphoria over the Fed's dovish stance faded and investors looked ahead to a new round of high-level U.S.-China trade negotiations beginning in Beijing next week. Brexit developments also remained in the spotlight after EU leaders agreed on a plan to delay the Article 50 process.

Chinese shares showed little change as investors looked forward to another round of U.S.-China trade talks next week. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index crept up 2.69 points or 0.1 percent to 3,104.15, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index inched up 41.80 points or 0.1 percent to 29,113.36.

Japanese shares ended roughly flat even as chipmakers rallied amid the buzz that Apple is preparing to release the AirPower sometime soon. The Nikkei 225 Index fluctuated before finishing up by 18.42 points or 0.1 percent at 21,627.34. The broader Topix rose 0.2 percent to 1,617.11.

Eisai plummeted 16.6 percent after announcing it would end its Alzheimer drug trials. Astellas Pharma tumbled 3.5 percent and Takeda Pharma declined 0.7 percent.

Dai-ichi Life Holdings and T&D Holdings fell over 1 percent as U.S. yields declined in the wake of the Fed's dovish surprise. Advantest Corp jumped 6.2 percent and Tokyo Electron climbed 5.2 percent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed that the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to contract at a steady pace in March, with a manufacturing PMI score of 48.9. That's unchanged from the February reading.

Another report showed that overall nationwide inflation in Japan rose an annual 0.2 percent in February, shy of expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent and unchanged from the January reading.

Australian markets advanced, with banks and healthcare companies leading the way higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 28.00 points or 0.5 percent to 6,195.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 0.4 percent at 6,280.90.

The big four banks rose between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent after recent declines. Insurer Suncorp Group rallied 1.9 percent as it announced a special dividend.

In the healthcare sector, heavyweight CSL advanced 1.5 percent, while Cochlear added 1.3 percent. Tech stocks such as Altium and Afterpay Touch rose 1-2 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended on a mixed note. Newcrest shed 0.8 percent and Evolution lost 2.7 percent as gold extended losses to move further away from a three-week peak hit in the previous session.

St Barbara slumped 29.3 percent after reducing its gold production target at the Gwalia mine in Western Australia. Adult education provider Navitas gained 2.5 percent as it agreed to a A$2.09 billion (S$2 billion) takeover offer by a consortium.

Seoul stocks ended little changed with a positive bias as institutions booked some profits after sharp gains in the previous session. The benchmark Kospi crept up 2.07 points or 0.1 percent to 2,186.95.

Trading in Asiana Airlines' shares was suspended after its auditor said it had not obtained "sufficient and appropriate audit evidence" on the recognition and measurement of doubtful debts.

New Zealand shares rallied, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index jumping 89.68 points or 1 percent to 9,550.99 to record its seventh straight weekly gain. Synlait Milk soared 5.1 percent and Air New Zealand added 4 percent.

U.S. stocks rose overnight as investors cheered upbeat economic data and Apple shares soared ahead of the company's expected streaming service debut next week.

The Dow climbed 0.8 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 surged up 1.4 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, to reach their best closing levels in well over five months.

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