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Asian markets mixed, Tokyo soars on weak yen

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mixed on Friday with Japanese stocks jumping to their highest level in over five years after the dollar surged above the 100 yen mark and US jobs data also boosting sentiment.

Tokyo closed up 2.93 percent, or 416.06 points at 14,607.54, following the dollar's overnight topping of 100 yen for the first time since April 2009, underscoring the Japanese currency's sharp decline in recent months.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index had earlier soared 3.09 percent in mid-morning trade. Its close was the best since January 4, 2008 when it ended at 14,691.41.

Sydney gained 0.15 percent, or 7.7 points, to 5,206.1 while Seoul fell 1.75 percent, or 34.7 points, to 1,944.75 led by worries amongst South Korean automakers about the weak yen.

In afternoon trade Hong Kong was flat while Shanghai was up 0.46 percent, rebounding from earlier losses in the session.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's big government spending and aggressive central bank monetary easing to reflate the world's third-largest economy after years of deflation continues to depress the country's currency.

The yen has plunged about 30 percent against the dollar since late last year and has accelerated in the wake of the aggressive bond-buying program unveiled in April by the Bank of Japan.

The greenback in Asian trade Friday added to Thursday's gains in New York with the dollar changing hands at 101.08 yen against 100.55 yen.

In late September 2012 it was as a low as 77.25 yen.

The euro also climbed against the Japanese currency Friday, at 131.75 from 131.17 in New York, while the single European unit was at $1.3039 from $1.3044.

"The dollar's breach of the 100 yen level is iconic and will automatically draw more interest to Japan as a potential equity investment destination," a fund manager at a foreign asset management company told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar was also aided by fresh US jobless claims figures Thursday which fell to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 last week, its lowest level since mid-January 2008, the Labor Department reported.

"The strong US jobs data showed more proof that the US economy is on the rebound, a powerful fundamental theme that should, along with the weaker yen, keep the market bullish" in Tokyo, said Hiroichi Nishi of SMBC Nikko Securities.

US stocks fell overnight as dealers took a breather after several successive record closes.

The Dow fell 0.15 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.37 percent and the Nasdaq gave up 0.12 percent to 3,409.17.

Oil was down in Asia with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June shed 49 cents to $95.90 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery was down 41 cents to $104.06 in the afternoon.

Gold was at $1,460.28 an ounce at 0635 GMT compared with $1,472.00 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei was flat, losing 5.63 points to 8,280.26.

HTC fell 1.76 percent to Tw$279.0 while TSMC was 0.43 percent lower at Tw$114.5.

-- Wellington rose 0.29 percent, or 13.44 points, to 4,652.78.

Debutant Mighty River Power opened up 9.2 percent on its initial offer price at NZ$2.73 before closing at NZ$2.62.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130513/asian-markets-mixed-tokyo-soars-weak-yen