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Asian Shares Advance On Economic Optimism

Asian stocks rose broadly on Friday as strong U.S. and Chinese economic data cemented expectations of a solid global economic recovery.

The upside was limited amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases in the region and possible restrictions on economic activity in several countries.

Chinese and Hong Kong shares rose as investors digested a raft of data. China's Shanghai Composite Index climbed 27.63 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,426.62, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 176.57 points, or 0.6 percent, at 28,969.71.

China's gross domestic product expanded 18.3 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

That was slightly shy of estimates for a jump of 19.0 percent but was up sharply from the 6.5 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Industrial production was up an annual 14.1 percent in March, missing forecasts for a gain of 17.2 percent and slowing from the 35.1 percent growth in February.

Retail sales skyrocketed 34.2 percent year-on-year in the month, exceeding expectations for a gain of 28.0 percent and up from 33.8 percent in the previous month.

Fixed asset investment jumped an annual 25.8 percent, beating forecasts for 25.0 percent, while the jobless rate fell to 5.3 percent from 5.5 percent in February.

Japanese shares edged up slightly as investors awaited the outcome of a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden set for the weekend.

The Nikkei 225 Index inched up 40.68 points, or 0.1 percent, to 29,683.37 as the country considers stricter Covid-19 measures for areas surrounding Tokyo. The broader Topix finished marginally higher at 1,960.87.

A top ruling party official suggested the possibility of canceling the Tokyo Olympics as the western metropolis of Osaka reported over 1,200 new infections Thursday, the highest since the pandemic began.

Chip-related shares gained ground after Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing reported a 19.4 percent increase in first quarter profit on strong chip demand. Renesas Electronics climbed 2.5 percent.

Toshiba lost 6 percent after reports that the conglomerate plans to reject a buyout proposal from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

Australian markets ended on a flat note after reaching a 14-mongh high on Thursday. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 4.90 points to 7,063.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 8.30 points at 7,325.80.

Mining heavyweight BHP rose about half a percent and rival Rio Tinto gained 1 percent as iron ore prices recovered from losses in the previous sessions.

Gold miners Northern Star Resources, Evolution Mining and Newcrest jumped 3-4 percent after bullion prices scaled a more than one-month peak overnight.

Energy stocks underperformed despite crude oil prices reaching fresh four-week highs on an improving demand outlook. Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search fell about 1 percent. Origin Energy plunged almost 9 percent after cutting its annual profit guidance for its energy markets division.

Seoul stocks rose for the fifth straight day as expectations of a global economic rebound and solid corporate earnings boosted investors' appetite for riskier assets. The benchmark Kospi edged up 4.29 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,198.62. Pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics led the gainers, rising more than 3 percent.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index rising 48.18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,684.73. Napier Port Holdings shares rallied 2.9 percent after the marine cargo handling firm raised its earnings outlook for the year to September 30, 2021.

The manufacturing sector in New Zealand continued to expand in March, and at a much faster pace, the latest survey from BusinessNZ revealed earlier today, with a record-high Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 63.6, up from the upwardly revised 54.2 in February.

U.S. stocks advanced overnight as inflation concerns eased and encouraging retail sales and jobless claims data raised hopes of a broader economic recovery.

The Dow climbed 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 rallied 1.1 percent to reach new record closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.3 percent to end at its best closing level in two months.

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