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Asian shares rise after ECB rate cut


Asian markets mostly rose on Friday, aided by a European Central Bank interest rate cut aimed at stimulating growth in the sluggish eurozone and a positive US jobless claims report.

Seoul closed 0.43 percent, or 8.50 points, higher at 1,965.71, Shanghai ended up 1.44 percent, or 31.38 points, at 2,205.50 and Hong Kong rose 0.10 percent, or 21.66 points, to 22,689.96.

Sydney ended flat, losing 0.5 points, at 5,129.5 while Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 reached a new all-time high Thursday after ECB policymakers shaved a quarter point off the key "refi" refinancing rate to a record low of 0.50 percent.

The index increased 0.94 percent, or 14.89 points, to reach 1,597.59 while the Dow gained 0.89 percent and the Nasdaq added 1.26 percent.

The widely expected ECB rate cut is part of efforts to increase demand and encourage growth in the debt-stricken eurozone.

ECB chief Mario Draghi revealed that the decision was by no means unanimous among members of the policy-setting governing council, but vowed to keep rates low for as long as needed.

Draghi also hinted at more easing, telling a news conference: "We will look at all incoming data and stand ready to act if needed."

That suggestion sent the euro plummeting against the dollar but the single currency fought back in Asian trade Friday with the euro at $1.3107 from $1.3063 in New York Thursday and at 128.73 yen from 127.93 yen.

"The rate cut had been priced by traders prior to the announcement by the ECB, so we could be seeing a push back up with the euro," said Jason Hughes, head of sales trading at CMC Markets in Singapore.

The dollar rose to 98.23 yen in afternoon trade from 97.93 yen.

European stocks rose Thursday after the ECB announcement but opened flat on Friday. London was down 0.02 percent, Frankfurt nudged 0.01 percent higher while Paris gained 0.29 percent.

Asian markets also responded positively to a better-than-expected US Labor Department report showing new claims for unemployment benefits had fallen to a five-year low.

The claims -- an indicator of the pace of layoffs -- fell by 18,000 to 324,000, the lowest level since mid-January 2008.

Hughes said dealers were hoping for more positive news on the US jobs front when non-farm payrolls data is released later Friday.

Chinese shares were higher as investors booked profits after falls on Thursday on the back of weak manufacturing data.

"We think it's a good opportunity to buy on dips at current levels, as weak readings on manufacturing data this week seemed to be a temporary blip and the domestic economy is on the right track to a sustained recovery," Capital Securities market analyst Amy Lin told Dow Jones Newswires.

Oil was down in Asian trade, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, dropping 25 cents to $93.74 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery shedding 21 cents to $102.64 in afternoon trade.

Prices had surged nearly $3.0 in closing deals Thursday after the ECB rate cut.

An ounce of gold fetched $1,477.26 at 0815 GMT, compared with $1,455.00 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington fell 0.66 percent, or 30.14 points, to 4,544.32.

Fletcher Building slid 6.52 percent to NZ$8.03 while online auction house Trade Me declined 2.0 percent to NZ$4.0.

-- Taipei was flat, adding 6.52 points to 8,135.03.

Hon Hai rose 1.44 percent to Tw$77.5 while TSMC fell 0.45 percent to Tw$110.0.

-- Manila rose 1.72 percent, or 121.93 points, to 7,215.35 -- a new record high.

Top-traded Alliance Global Group gained 3.4 percent to 25.05 points while Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 0.32 percent to 3,090 pesos.