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Asian Markets Mostly Higher In Holiday-thinned Trade

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Asian stock markets such as Japan and South Korea are higher on Friday following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street, though trading volumes are lighter than usual. The Chinese market is modestly lower. Many of the other markets in the Asia-Pacific region are closed for the Good Friday holiday.

The Japanese market is advancing following the positive cues from Wall Street and on a slightly weaker yen. Tech stocks and exporters are among the leading gainers.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 115.18 points or 0.52 percent to 22,205.30, after touching a high of 22,250.37 in early trades. Japanese shares fell from a four-and-a-half month high on Thursday.

Shares of Nintendo are gaining 16 percent after media reports said that China's Tencent Holdings won approval on Thursday to begin selling Nintendo's Switch console in China with a test version of the "New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe" game.

Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies said that SoftBank will invest $333 million in its autonomous vehicle unit, while Toyota and auto-parts supplier Denso Corp. will invest a combined $667 million.

Shares of SoftBank are up 0.2 percent, while Denso Corp.'s shares are gaining more than 3 percent. Toyota's shares are lower by 0.6 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a slightly weaker yen. Sony is advancing more than 1 percent, Panasonic is adding almost 1 percent and Canon is up 0.2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is lower by 0.2 percent.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is rising more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing almost 2 percent.

The Nikkei Asian Review reported that Nissan Motor will cut its global production by about 15 percent for the fiscal year ending March 2020 as the automaker shifts away from the aggressive expansion campaign promoted by former Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Shares of Nissan Motor are lower by more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are lower by almost 1 percent each. In the oil sector, Inpex is down 0.5 percent and Japan Petroleum is lower by 0.7 percent even as crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Minebea Mitsumi is rising more than 5 percent and Screen Holdings is gaining more than 4 percent.

On the flip side, Yamato Holdings is falling more than 8 percent, while Seven & I Holdings and Daiwa House Industry Co. are lower by more than 3 percent each.

On the economic front, the ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that overall nationwide consumer prices in Japan were up 0.5 percent on year in March. That was in line with expectations and up from 0.2 percent in February.

Core consumer prices were up 0.8 percent on year - exceeding expectations for 0.7 percent, which would have been unchanged from the previous month.

Japan will also release March figures for supermarket sales today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 111 yen-range on Friday.

The South Korean market is modestly higher, led by gains in tech and pharmaceutical stocks. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index or KOSPI is rising 6.78 points or 0.31 percent to 2,220.55.

Chipmaker SK Hynix is gaining almost 4 percent and LG Electronics is rising 0.4 percent. Meanwhile, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is down 0.2 percent.

Among pharmaceutical stocks, Celltrion is gaining almost 3 percent Samsung Biologics is advancing more than 2 percent and HanmiPharm is higher by more than 1 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia and Taiwan are also higher, while Shanghai is lower. The markets in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore are closed for the Good Friday holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday in choppy trading as traders remained reluctant to make significant moves going into the long Easter weekend. Traders were also looking ahead to the slew of quarterly earnings news scheduled to be released next week as earnings season continues to pick up steam.

The Nasdaq inched up just 1.98 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 7,998.06, while the Dow climbed 110.00 points or 0.4 percent to a six-month closing high of 26,559.54 and the S&P 500 rose 4.58 points or 0.2 percent to 2,905.03.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index climbed by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil futures edged higher on Thursday and eked out marginal gains for the truncated week, with traders weighing near term crude supply and demand prospects and making cautious moves. WTI crude for May rose $0.24 or about 0.4 percent to close at $64.00 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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