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Asian shares pick up, dealers eye G20 meeting

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets rose on Friday at the end of a tough week for global equities and commodities as dealers keep an eye on a meeting of world central bank and finance chiefs in Washington.

Investors seemed to brush off a second straight loss on Wall Street, while gold prices climbed after hitting two-year lows earlier in the week.

Tokyo rose 0.73 percent, or 96.41 points, to 13,316.48, Seoul was 0.35 percent higher, adding 6.69 points to 1,906.75, while Sydney climbed 0.15 percent, or 7.5 points, to 4,931.9.

In the afternoon Hong Kong rose 1.53 percent and Shanghai jumped 2.23 percent.

Shares were enjoying a brighter end to the week, which started with a sell-off after China released worse-than-forecast growth data that raised concerns about the strength of the world's number-two economy.

At the G20 meeting in Washington finishing Friday, Japan is expected to try to reassure other finance ministers and central bank governors that it is not intentionally weakening its yen with recent easing measures.

The Bank of Japan this month unleashed a huge stimulus package to kickstart its economy and bring an end to years of deflation. However, the move has led some to claim Tokyo is looking to give its exporters a trade advantage.

Analysts said the G20 was unlikely to voice major concern over Japan's new policy.

"Barring a major crisis akin to Italy after the last G20 meeting, the yen will further weaken post-summit," Hideyuki Ishiguro, assistant manager at Okasan Securities, said.

An equity strategist at a foreign brokerage added: "On the surface, it would seem a bit hypocritical for Europe or the United States to give Japan flak over policies that they themselves have implemented over the years."

The yen has been tumbling since the BoJ's policy announcement at the start of April, with the dollar almost hitting 100 yen last week for the first time in four years.

On foreign exchange markets Friday the dollar bought 98.54 yen in afternoon Asian trade Friday against 98.23 yen in New York late Thursday. The euro fetched $1.3063 and 128.74 yen, against $1.3050 and 128.21 yen.

Wall Street saw a second successive sell-off following weak economic data, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia saying its index of business conditions had slipped in April.

The closely watched Conference Board leading economic index of indicators also slipped, while the Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefit rose slightly last week.

Sentiment had already been weak after the International Monetary Fund slashed its global growth forecasts earlier in the week.

The Dow fell 0.56 percent, the S&P 500 shed 0.67 percent and the Nasdaq gave up 1.20 percent.

"Signs are beginning to point to a less-than-robust US economic rebound," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.

Commodities enjoyed a slight uptick after seeing tough selling during the week caused by China's data on Monday showing the economy grew just 7.7 percent in January-March, compared with 7.9 percent in the previous three months.

Economists had predicted 8.0 percent growth.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May adding 24 cents to $87.97 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery gaining 44 cents to $99.57. Brent fell below $100 this week for the first time since July.

And an ounce of gold fetched $1,416.50 at 0625 GMT, compared with $1,394.10 late Thursday in Asia. The precious metal has picked up slightly since Monday's biggest slump in 30 years to around $1,340.00.

In other markets:

-- Taipei jumped 1.79 percent, or 139.45 points, to 7,930.80.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was up 7.0 percent at Tw$106.5 while smartphone maker HTC fell 0.35 percent to Tw$279.5.

-- Wellington ended flat, edging up 2.40 points to 4,444.50.

Telecom was 1.81 percent higher at NZ$2.53, Contact Energy was down 2.75 percent at NZ$5.31 and Fletcher Building slipped 0.36 percent to NZ$8.41.

-- Mumbai was closed for a public holiday.

dan/ia

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130419/asian-shares-pick-dealers-eye-g20-meeting-0