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Nikkei at Fresh Highs; Asia Up on US Optimism

Japanese shares hit a four-and-a-half-year high on Friday on optimism over monetary stimulus, while other Asian markets recovered from previous losses after a strong U.S jobless claims report revealed that a recovery was well under way in the world's largest economy.

The Nikkei closed well-above the 12,500-mark, Australian shares rallied 1.7 percent to outperform the region and the Shanghai market shot up from an earlier two-month low. Meanwhile, Seoul's Kospi closed at its lowest levels in over three weeks.

(Read More: Emerging Markets Being Left Out of Global Rally)

For the week, the Nikkei came in first place with a gain of 2.2 percent while the Shanghai Composite was the market's biggest loser, down 1.7 percent.

"The rally this year has been slow-and-steady which is a healthier sign than a rapid rise, which so often precipitates a similar fall. Although just lately it's been akin to a tortoise climbing Mount Everest as equities seem to be running out of steam as we reach the summit," said Jason Hughes of IG Markets in a note.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei's Fresh Highs

Tokyo equities rallied as hopes of fiscal stimulus gained fresh momentum after Japan's upper house of parliament approved Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new 'dream team' at the central bank.

The confirmation of Haruhiko Kuroda as the next governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso as deputy governors is the last step for the implementation of "Abenonomics" — Abe's economic strategy to help the economy hit a 2 percent inflation target.

Eisuke Sakakibara, known as "Mr Yen" during his tenure as former vice finance minister of Japan in the 1990s, told CNBC that he remains skeptical. "Targeting 2 percent inflation would be extremely difficult because we have been in a state of deflation for the last 20 years. Even at the time when Japan was in the upward [growth] swing between 2002 and 2007, prices went down," he said.

Shanghai Rebounds

Transportation-related shares helped the Shanghai market recover from an earlier intra-day low of 2,250 points, it's lowest level since January.

Hainan Airlines surged 10 percent after the Center of Asia-Pacific Aviation reported that China's fourth-largest carrier posted a near 10 percent rise in 2012 revenue. This sparked a rally across airline stocks with Air China gaining over 6 percent and China Southern up by 3.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Daqin Railway added 4 percent after China's cabinet announced a restructuring of the mainland's rail operations following the dissolution of the scandal-plagued Railway Ministry.

Oz Banks Gain

Australian shares out performed the regional market as banks led the index higher with a 2 percent rise in National Australia Bank, followed by a 1.9 percent gain in Australia New Zealand Banking.

Resource stocks rebounded after a heavy sell off over the past week. Oil and gas producer Senex Energy rallied over 7 percent and copper miner CuDECO rose 6 percent.

The benchmark posted a weekly loss of 0.05 percent after rallying as much as 9.8 percent over the past three months. Caution remains after Wednesday's strong employment figures led investors to scale back expectations for further interest rate cuts.

In Seoul, a 2.6 percent slump in Samsung Electronics weighed on the broader market, leading the Kospi to buck regional strength. Shares of the tech giant fell after unveiling its highly anticipated new Galaxy smartphone on Thursday.

"This is selling on the news as most of the features were already highly anticipated. There wasn't much positive surprise," reasoned Mark Newman, an analyst at Stanford Bernstein.

Exporters like Hyundai Motor rallied 3.7 percent after the Korean won hit a five-month low against the U.S dollar, helping soothe concerns about the competitiveness of domestic exporters as they battle a weaker yen.