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Asia stocks rise

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Asian shares were mostly higher Friday, recovering from earlier profit-taking, as traders awaited key U.S. jobs data later in the day.

Oil prices rose to near $89 a barrel Friday in Asia amid hopes that the employment report would show signs of a stronger U.S. economy.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average edged up slightly — less than 0.1 percent — in afternoon trading to 10,530.68, encouraged by a stock recovery in the rest of Asia, and recouped drops earlier in the day. The Nikkei had closed at an eight-month high the previous day.

The dollar has also held up relatively well in recent sessions, hovering at about 83 yen, helping boost confidence in Japanese stocks, said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at Nikko Cordial Securities in Tokyo.

“There is a mood of waiting to see the U.S. employment report, but sentiments are upbeat because the U.S. economy appears to be recovering,” he said. “The Tokyo market is pretty solid.”

Japan’s giant exporters, which stand to lose if the dollar drops, eroding overseas earnings’ value, were among the gainers. Toyota Motor Corp. shares surged more than 2 percent, while Sony Corp. gained 1.5 percent in afternoon trading.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged up 0.1 percent to 23,807.29, while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 2,082.50.

But smaller markets were mixed, despite the optimism about a fledgling global recovery. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia were down.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest maker of TVs, fell 0.8 percent after saying its fourth-quarter operating profit probably fell to 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion).

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that 409,000 people made claims for benefits for the first time, up 18,000 from the previous week. Economists expect the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in December from 9.8 percent the previous month.

In New York Thursday, stocks slipped after the government reported an increase in applications for unemployment benefits last week and U.S. retailers reported disappointing December sales. The Dow Jones fell 25.58 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 11,697.31, snapping a three-session winning streak.

In a week with several reports on employment, investors now await the most important one later Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly survey of all U.S. payrolls and the unemployment rate. Economists expect the rate fell to 9.7 percent in December from 9.8 percent the previous month.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.71, or 0.2 percent, to close at 1,273.85. The Nasdaq composite index rose 7.69, or 0.3 percent, to 2,709.89.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 83.40 yen from 83.33 yen late Thursday. The euro was slightly lower at $1.2992.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 34 to $88.72 a barrel electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $1.92, or 2 percent, to settle at $88.38 on Thursday.

The sharp drop erased more than two weeks of gains on concerns that supplies will increase in coming weeks as demand for oil and gas remains soft.

Source: AP

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