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Asian shares up after Wall St gains, eyes on jobs data

Asian markets rose on Friday after a strong Wall Street rally sparked by upbeat figures on the US labour market ahead of the release of crucial jobs data later in the day.

HONG KONG: Asian markets rose on Friday after a strong Wall Street rally sparked by upbeat figures on the US labour market ahead of the release of crucial jobs data later in the day.

The euro held up after enjoying a rally on Thursday in response to the European Central Bank's decision to keep interest rates unchanged, despite fears of deflation in the eurozone.

Tokyo climbed 2.17 per cent, or 307.29 points, to 14,462.41, Sydney closed 0.68 per cent, or 35.1 points, higher at 5,166.5 and Seoul added 0.77 per cent, or 14.61 points, to close at 1,922.50.

Hong Kong rose 1.00 per cent, or 213.72 points, to end at 21,636.85, while Shanghai -- on its first day open after a week-long Lunar New Year holiday -- closed up 0.56 per cent, or 11.42 points, at 2,044.50.

In other markets, Manila rose 1.63 per cent, or 96.55 points, to 6,011.14, and Taipei added 0.92 per cent, or 76.34 points, to 8,387.35.

Jakarta rose 0.95 per cent, or 41.96 points, to 4,466.67, Kuala Lumpur gained 0.59 per cent, or 10.69 points, to 1,808.59, and Singapore added 0.83 per cent, or 24.87 points, to 3,013.14.

Bangkok rose 0.10 per cent, or 1.25 points, to 1,296.49, and Mumbai rose 0.32 per cent, or 65.82 points, to 20,376.56.

At the end of a week that started with turmoil in global markets, traders were a lot calmer hours before the US Labor Department reports its non-farm payrolls data for January.

"The upcoming jobs data is viewed as critical for markets, which are pricing in further growth. So any hints that they might be good are positive for sentiment," said Mutsumi Kagawa, senior strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The figures will be used as a gauge for the strength of the US economy and have taken on huge significance since the Federal Reserve began winding down its stimulus programme from last month.

Its decision last week to reduce the bond-buying scheme further this month sent world markets into a tailspin as investors fretted about the impact on emerging markets.

Hopes of an upbeat set of figures on Friday were boosted by data on Thursday showing new claims for US unemployment insurance benefits, which indicate the pace of layoffs across the economy, fell back last week.

In New York, the Dow gained 1.22 per cent, the S&P 500 added 1.24 per cent and the Nasdaq tacked on 1.14 per cent.

But chief strategist Tatsunori Kawai told Dow Jones Newswires: "A weak number could trigger another market sell-off."

On currency markets, the dollar sat at 102.05 yen on Friday, after climbing in New York to 102.10 yen. However, it is well above the mid-101 yen range in Tokyo earlier on Thursday.

The US Labor Department's report of January data on job creation and unemployment early Friday "could make or break the greenback", said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.

The euro bought US$1.3583 and 138.65 yen against US$1.3591 and 138.79 yen. However, it is much stronger than the US$1.3517 and 137.16 yen in Tokyo on Thursday.

Europe's single currency rallied on Thursday after the central bank kept rates at 0.25 per cent and its head Mario Draghi brushed off talk that deflation was becoming a threat despite prices rising only marginally in recent months.

"If the ECB is holding tight, maybe it means the situation is not so dramatic" and recovery in Europe is still on its way, said Alexandre Baradez, analyst at IG brokerage.

Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March delivery, eased 24 cents to US$97.60 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for March was flat at US$107.19.

Gold fetched US$1,262.31 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with US$1,258.60 late Thursday.

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