Asian shares close higher


Asian shares were mostly stronger on Friday as Japanese stocks hit a fresh multi-year high after Wall Street dipped on weaker-than-expected economic data.

The dollar gained slightly in Asia as investors cautiously adjusted their positions following its recent surge, with brokers saying plenty of players, including importers, were willing to buy on dips.

Tokyo gained 0.67 per cent or 100.88 points to 15,138.12, Sydney rose 0.29 per cent or 15.14 points to 5,180.8, while Shanghai jumped 1.38 per cent, or 31.06 points, to 2,282.87.

Hong Kong and Seoul markets were closed for public holidays.

In the week to May 17, Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index surged 3.63 per cent, or 530.58 points, to finish at 15,138.12, the best close in more than five years.

Japanese shares are likely to gain further next week on robust investor appetite as confidence grows in the government's ability to deliver economic growth, analysts say.

"The market is literally bullish in a virtuous cycle, which tends to make players regard trading factors only from the positive aspect," said Takero Inaizumi, strategist at Mizuho Securities.

"Profit-taking can emerge from time to time but that can be easily erased by those who are eager to buy on dips," he said.

Local media reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would on Friday unveil the next stage of his economic measures, dubbed "Abenomics", intending to turn around years of deflation in the world's third-largest economy.

Meanwhile US investors took a pause on Thursday from a recent winning streak, selling off after a disappointing earnings report from Walmart and some middling economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.28 per cent to 15,233.22, while the broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.50 per cent to 1,650.47.

Investors were also unimpressed by a rise in initial jobless claims by 32,000 to 360,000. New building permits soared in April, but housing starts plummeted.

Most of the data "point more on the disappointing side of the ledger and may give markets a reason to sell off", said Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investment at Hinsdale Associates, a money management firm.

"There's also been a lot of positive momentum here recently and I think the market's taking a little bit of a breather," he said.

The dollar was slightly up at 102.28 yen in afternoon Asian trade, against 102.22 yen in New York late on Thursday. The euro bought US$1.2864 and 131.57 yen against US$1.2886 and 131.72 yen in US trade.

Oil was down in Asian trade, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June dropping 25 cents to US$94.91 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery shedding 27 cents to US$103.51.

Gold was at US$1,377.95 at 0945 GMT (1945 AEST) compared with US$1,374.10 late on Thursday.

In other markets:

- Taipei fell 0.26 per cent, or 21.86 points, to 8,368.19.

Acer rose 1.66 per cent to Tw$24.55 while HTC fell 1.72 per cent to Tw$285.0.

- Wellington fell 0.82 per cent, or 38.19 points, to 4,597.84.

Telecom Corp dropped 3.92 per cent to NZ$2.45, Fletcher Building slid 2.76 per cent to NZ$8.44 and Mainfreight remained steady on NZ$10.20.

- Manila shed 0.43 per cent, or 31.07 points, to 7,279.87.

Metro Pacific Investments dropped 0.49 per cent to 6.09 pesos while Alliance Global Group fell 2.26 per cent to 26 pesos.

- Singapore dropped 0.09 per cent, or 2.98 points, to 3,449.30.

Singapore Airlines dropped 4.54 per cent to Sg$10.93 and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation shed 0.18 per cent to Sg$11.17.