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Tokyo shares up amid holiday in most Asian markets

Tokyo stocks closed 1.27 percent higher on Thursday, as most markets in Asia stayed shut for Labour Day.

HONG KONG: Tokyo stocks closed 1.27 percent higher on Thursday, as most markets in Asia stayed shut for Labour Day.

The Nikkei closed 1.27 percent higher, adding 181.02 points to 14,485.13, as it tracked a rise on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve said the US economy was picking up.

The Nikkei was also boosted by some strong corporate earnings and healthy manufacturing data from China.

Sydney lost 0.73 percent, or 40.27 points, to finish at 5,448.8 despite a solid earnings report from ANZ bank, which said first half net profit was up 15 percent.

Wellington was 0.45 percent lower, slipping 23.47 points to close at 5,209.21.

Financial markets in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand were closed for May Day.

In Japan, investors took their lead from Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Wednesday at a fresh record high.

The Fed, concluding a two-day policy meeting, said economic activity had "picked up recently" after a bout of fierce winter weather.

Strong corporate earnings figures also led the Tokyo market higher, with brokerage house Nomura Holdings surging 6.29 percent to 625 yen and Daiwa Securities rising 3.14 percent to 789 after both reported strong earnings from the year ended in March.

Fujitsu jumped 6.33 percent to 638 yen after swinging back to the black for the just-ended fiscal year.

Even so, market analyst Kenichi Hirano of Tachibana Securities said the market remained "trapped in a boxed trading range" due to a general lack of participants and major currency market moves.

"Nevertheless, good earnings reports are welcome, and may help bolster support," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

In afternoon Tokyo trading, the greenback fetched 102.20 yen, from 102.23 yen in New York Wednesday.

The euro rose slightly to $1.3884 and 141.90 yen, from $1.3866 and 141.75 yen in US trade.

The yen is under pressure after the Bank of Japan left its monetary policy unchanged but lowered the country's growth projections, fuelling speculation it will expand its huge stimulus drive, which tends to weigh on the currency.

BoJ policymakers on Wednesday predicted that the world's number three economy would expand by 1.1 percent in the fiscal year to next March -- down from an earlier 1.4 percent forecast.

But expectations that inflation would come in at 1.3 percent over the same time period were unchanged.

The report was seen as a key measure of whether the BoJ still thinks it can stoke lasting inflation, but there are doubts among a growing number of observers who say the bank will be forced to expand its stimulus programme to counter a downturn in the economy.

On Wednesday, the BoJ held off from expanding the asset-purchase scheme, awaiting the effects of an April 1 sales tax hike.

In China, the government said on Thursday that manufacturing activity had improved in April for a second straight month.

The official purchasing managers index (PMI) was 50.4 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement, up from 50.3 in March.

The index tracks manufacturing activity in China's factories and workshops and is a closely watched indicator of the health of the economy, with a reading of 50 or above indicating growth.

In New York on Wednesday the Dow advanced 0.27 percent to 16,580.84 points, notching its first all-time high of 2014. The last record close, 16,576.66, was set on December 31.

The S&P 500 rose 0.30 percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.27 percent.

Oil prices were down, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for June delivery slipping 20 cents to $99.54 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June down 34 cents to $107.73 a barrel.

Gold fetched $1,282.76 at 0815 GMT compared with $1,288.50 on Wednesday.

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