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Tokyo stocks, euro up in holiday-hit trade

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japanese shares ended higher at the end of quiet regional trade on Friday but the euro edged lower on lingering concerns over Cyprus despite the island's bank's reopening to relative calm.

Lenders in the Mediterranean nation began trading Thursday for the first time since a controversial bailout was agreed, with the first capital controls of their kind in the eurozone blocking a bank run that analysts feared could ripple across region.

Investors were also eyeing tensions on the Korean peninsula, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered preparations for strategic strikes on the US mainland and military bases after US stealth bombers flew training runs over South Korea.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index ended 0.50 percent higher, adding 61.95 points to 12,397.91. The market finished the first three months of 2012 almost 20 percent higher.

In other markets Seoul gained 0.57 percent, or 11.37 points, to end at 2,004.89, while Taipei finished up 0.66 percent, or 51.73 points, at 7,918.61.

In late afternoon trade Shanghai was 0.10 percent higher.

Markets in Hong Kong, Sydney, Wellington, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila and Mumbai were closed for the Easter holidays.

In forex trade, the euro edged up to $1.2804 from $1.2814 in New York late Thursday, while it bought 120.43 yen from 120.64 yen.

The single currency has been on a downward roll as traders fret about the situation in Cyprus, which this week agreed a rescue plan with its creditors that includes a levy on bank deposits over 100,000 euros.

There had been fears ahead of the reopening of the country's banks that savers would rush to take out as much money as they could -- and lead to a knock-on effect in other troubled economies.

However, while the euro avoided a big sell-off analysts said the Cyprus crisis was still not over, while Italian politicians struggle to produce a governing coalition more than a month after elections despite the economy being in dire straits.

The dollar weakened to 94.06 yen, from 94.12 yen, ahead of a Bank of Japan meeting next week that is expected to see the launch of more aggressive easing by the central bank.

Traders will also have an eye on meetings of the European Central Bank and Bank of England.

Wall Street provided a healthy lead, with the S&P 500 hitting a record high thanks to growing confidence in the US economy, while the Dow, hit yet another all-time high itself.

Market watchers credited steadily improving US data, solid corporate earnings and continued high liquidity from the Federal Reserve's stimulus measures.

In Tokyo trade, Sony was up 1.04 percent at 1,642 yen, Uniqlo cheap chic clothing operator Fast Retailing climbed 2.40 percent to 30,650 yen and Toyota added 0.72 percent to 4,860 yen.

Panasonic tumbled 7.10 percent to 654 yen on disappointment with the struggling electronics giant's mid-term business plan, which failed to give a timeline for dumping money-losing businesses and pointed to a lacklustre 350 billion yen operating profit by early 2016.

Gold was at $1,593.50 an ounce at 0650 GMT compared with $1,602.29 late on Thursday.

bur-pb/dan

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130329/tokyo-stocks-euro-holiday-hit-trade-0