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Asian Shares Mostly Higher In Cautious Trading

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Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Thursday as investors reacted to Fed Chair Jerome Powell's dovish comments and U.S. President Joe Biden's congressional speech about increasing taxes on the rich. Japanese markets were closed for Showa Day.

Chinese shares fluctuated before finishing higher after Biden said he told Chinese President Xi that "we welcome the competition - and that we are not looking for conflict." Biden also said he didn't seek worse relations with Russia.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 17.83 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,474.90, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 231.92 points, or 0.8 percent, at 29,303.26.

Australian markets advanced as higher commodity prices helped lift shares of energy companies and gold miners. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 17.60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,082.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 26 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,346.

Evolution Mining, Newcrest and Northern Star Resources climbed 2-3 percent as bullion prices jumped overnight after dovish rhetoric from the Federal Reserve. Resolute Mining surged 5.4 percent after reaffirming its 2021 guidance.

Woodside Petroleum and Santos posted modest gains as oil extended overnight gains. Viva Energy Group shares jumped 3.7 percent.

Medical gloves and protective suits company Ansell climbed 3.8 percent to extend gains from the previous session after upgrading guidance for FY21. Supermarket chain Woolworths tumbled 3.9 percent after a disappointing earnings report.

Seoul stocks fell for the third straight day despite the Federal Reserve's soothing comments on inflation, interest rates and the economic outlook. The Kospi dipped 7.40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,174.07.

Chemical firm LG Chem surged 6.9 percent after posting a record earnings jump, while internet portal operator Naver, its rival Kakao and automaker Hyundai Motor all lost about 2 percent.

Business sentiment in South Korea picked up steam in April, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea showed earlier today, with a Business Survey Index score of 96.0 - up from 89.0 in March. The outlook also improved, climbing from 91.0 last month to 98.0 in April.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index rising 69.06 points, or 0.6 percent, to 12,715.20 after data showed both exports and imports grew in March from the previous month. Z Energy shares jumped 3.5 percent and A2 Milk Company advanced 1.7 percent.

U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as the Fed left interest rates and asset purchases unchanged while pledging to keep policy accommodative for some time, despite rising inflation.

Officials strengthened their assessment of the economy, citing progress on vaccinations and strong policy support.

Traders also reacted to the latest earnings news from several big-name companies, including Alphabet, Visa, Microsoft and Boeing.

The Dow slid half a percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 edged down marginally.

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