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MENAFN - AFP - 02/11/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) A string of upbeat data from the United States and a rally on Wall Street boosted Asian markets on Friday, while growing confidence in the global outlook kept the safe-haven yen under pressure.

The latest statistics from Washington follow data out of Asia earlier Thursday that showed manufacturing slowly picking up, with China seeming to have come to the end of its recent malaise.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index was helped by a weaker yen, jumping 1.17 percent, or 104.35 points, to 9,051.22.

"The market is gaining on positive US economic-related data and the solidly cheaper yen," said Okasan Securities strategist Hideyuki Ishiguro.

"Markets should be able to see some measure of extra relief after the US presidential election is settled next week as well," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Sharp Corp. shares fell 2.36 percent to 165 yen after the maker of Aquos-brand electronics said it would post a 5.6 billion yearly loss, and warned it had doubts about carrying on as a viable company.

Dealers said much of the bad news had already been priced into its shares, which have dived in recent months.

"Sharp's figures came out more or less in line with data already leaked to the media, so we likely won't see the kind of shock witnessed in Thursday's market with Panasonic," said Investrust chief executive Hiroyuki Fukunaga.

Panasonic plunged nearly 20 percent Thursday on news it would post an eye-watering 9.6 billion loss in the year to March. On Friday the shares were down 0.72 percent to 411 yen.

PlayStation maker Sony offered a glimmer of hope for Japan's troubled electronics sector, saying it still expects to eke out a full-year profit after four years in the red. Its shares rose 2.07 percent to 934 yen.

The Sydney market was flat, adding 2.5 points to 4,460.1 and Seoul climbed 1.07 percent, or 20.28 points, to 1,918.72.

Hong Kong climbed 1.33 percent, or 289.46 points, to 22,11.33 and Shanghai closed up 0.60 percent, or 12.62 points, at 2,117.05.

Wall Street's three main indexes saw healthy gains on Thursday, their second day back after a two-day closure caused by superstorm Sandy, thanks to a bright batch of indicators that suggest the economy is gaining strength.

The US Conference Board index of consumer confidence for October rose to a better-than-forecast 72.2 in October, from a revised 68.4 in September, pointing to a pick-up in the crucial manufacturing sector.

Also, the Labor Department said weekly jobless claims continued their decline, falling a modest 9,000 to 363,000 last week -- below the four-week moving trend of 367,250.

That provided hopes for closely-watched non-farm payrolls results due out of Washington later Friday, with expectations for another rise in job creation.

And the auto industry said sales continued to climb in October, even as Hurricane Sandy curbed sales on the heavily populated northeastern coast in the last three days of the month.

Meanwhile the Institute for Supply Management said its purchasing managers index (PMI) for the industrial sector rose to 51.7 from September's 51.5 reading.

Anything above 50 points to growth while anything below is a contraction.

The news sent US stocks higher. The Dow finished 1.04 percent up, the S&P 500 rose 1.09 percent and the Nasdaq gained 1.44 percent.

The manufacturing figures followed a similar trend in China, where the official PMI swung back above 50 for the first time in three months, while a separate one by HSBC also showed an improvement, raising hopes for the world's number two economy.

There were also signs of life in PMIs from India, Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea.

With confidence on the up, dealers moved out of the safe haven yen on currency markets.

In afternoon trade, the euro bought 103.63 yen, up from 103.69 yen in New York late Thursday, while it was at 1.2900 from 1.2940.

The dollar rose to 80.33 yen against 80.13 yen.

However, despite the improved economic numbers traders remained concerned about a flurry of downbeat corporate results, with Japan's Panasonic and Sharp warning of huge losses for this fiscal year.

And in Europe, the International Monetary Fund warned that negotiations between Greece and international lenders for desperately-needed rescue funds are stuck, stoking new concerns over Athens' future in the eurozone.

Oil prices were lower. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, shed 42 cents to 86.67 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for December delivery slid 30 cents to 107.87.

Gold was at 1,709.26 at 0820 GMT compared with 1,723.19 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei added 0.43 percent, or 30.83 points, to 7,210.47.

TSMC rose 0.78 percent to Tw89.9 while Hon Hai Precision fell 1.34 percent to Tw88.6.

-- Wellington closed 0.45 percent, or 17.81 points, lower at 3,914.08.

Contact Energy ended down 2.4 percent at NZ5.30, Auckland Airport lost 1.5 percent to NZ2.64 and Chorus eased 0.9 percent to NZ3.32 but Fletcher Building was up 0.87 percent at NZ6.99.

-- Manila was closed for a public holiday.


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