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Asian Shares Mostly Higher After China Data


Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Friday as positive U.S. data and optimism over a potential U.S.-China trade deal helped offset growth worries to some extent.

Chinese trade data proved to be a mixed bag, with exports rebounding to a five-month high, while imports fell more than expected.

China's Shanghai Composite Index finished marginally lower at 3,188.63, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged up 0.2 percent to 29,909.76.

Official data showed that Chinese exports surged up 14.2 percent in March from a year earlier, beating analysts' expectations and marking the strongest growth in five months.

Imports dropped an annual 7.6 percent, worse than analysts' forecasts for a 1.3 percent drop and widening from February's 5.2 percent slump.

Japanese shares a hit four-month high as investors braced for earnings and an upcoming 10-day holiday in the country.

The Nikkei 225 Index closed up 159.18 points or 0.7 percent at 21,870.56, its highest level since December 5. The broader Topix ended marginally lower at 1,605.40.

Heavyweight Fast Retailing jumped 7.9 percent. SoftBank Group advanced 4.9 percent after Uber Technologies filed for its initial public offering in the U.S. SoftBank is Uber's biggest investor.

Panasonic added 2.8 percent. The Nikkei business review reported that Panasonic and electric car company Tesla have frozen a plan to boost capacity of the Gigafactory 1 battery plant in Nevada due to weak demand for the vehicles.

Toshiba Corp lost 2.7 percent after the Japanese conglomerate said that China's ENN Ecological Holdings Co. has scrapped an agreement to take over Toshiba's U.S. liquefied natural gas business.

Australian markets finished notably higher as higher iron ore prices lifted mining stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 52.60 points or 0.9 percent to 6,251.30 and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 52.90 points or 0.8 percent at 6,347.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group ended narrowly mixed, while the big four banks jumped 1-2 percent.

Gold miner Evolution tumbled 3 percent after gold prices fell more than 1 percent on robust economic data from the United States. Energy stocks ended broadly higher despite a sharp drop in crude oil prices overnight.

Seoul stocks closed higher as Chinese exports data topped forecasts. The benchmark Kospi rose 9.01 points or 0.4 percent to 2,233.45 despite a summit between Seoul and Washington failing to reach an agreement on economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics rallied 1.3 percent on expectations that falling memory chip prices will bottom out soon. Korean Air jumped 7.6 percent on restructuring news. Asiana Airlines shares soared 29.3 percent.

New Zealand shares ended little changed, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index finishing marginally higher at 9,768.33.

Retirement village operators Summerset Group Holdings and Ryman Healthcare led the gainers, while Air New Zealand tumbled 2.8 percent.

The manufacturing sector in New Zealand continued to expand in March, albeit at a slower rate, the latest survey from BusinessNZ revealed today, with a manufacturing PMI score of 51.9, down from 53.7 in February.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fell in thin trading as growth worries lingered and investors braced for the start of the corporate earnings season.

The Dow slipped 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 ended nearly flat, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.2 percent.

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