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Asian equities mostly higher on China stimulus hopes

Asian equity markets ended mostly higher on the final trading day of the week as hopes of policy easing in China offset a weak lead from Wall Street.

In a speech made on Wednesday and reported by state media on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the government would gradually roll out targeted measures to aid the economy, fueling speculation of imminent monetary stimulus.

Read MoreDanger of pricing in a 'big bang' China stimulus

U.S. stocks slid on Thursday for a second straight session, with the Nasdaq hitting a six-week low, following the latest economic reports. The American economy grew 2.6 percent in the final three months of last year, better than the 2.4 percent rate projected in February. Separately, numbers from the Labor Department had jobless claims falling by 10,000 to a four-month low of 311,000.

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 0.5% higher

Japan's benchmark Nikkei closed at a fresh two-week high, extending gains following Thursday's 1 percent rally. Sentiment rose after the latest data confirmed the economy was on track to beat deflation.

Consumer price inflation for February rose an annual 1.3 percent, in line with estimates, while retail sales increased 3.6 percent from the year before, beating expectations for a 3.2 percent rise. However, household spending declined an annual 2.5 percent, well below expectations for a 0.1 percent gain.

Retailers gained, with Takashimaya, Aeon and Fast Retailing all ending 2 percent higher.

Analysts said the reports dampened hopes for stimulus from the Bank of Japan in the near-term.

"I don't the Bank of Japan will be ready to act in April, it's too soon for them to get an idea of the temperature of the economy after the sales tax rise. But as you move a month or two out of that, I do think on balance we will see more quantitative easing," said Emma Lawson, senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank.

Read MoreJapan tax hike? We aren't worried: Rakuten CEO

Yahoo Japan ended 6.3 percent lower following an earlier 10 percent slump after announcing it will buy mobile network operator eAccess from Softbank for $3.2 billion.

Shanghai Composite slips 0.2%

Mainland shares reversed early gains to slide for a third straight session as investors looked ahead to next week's manufacturing data. The government is due to release its official purchasing manager's index (PMI) alongside HSBC's final PMI reading on Tuesday.

SAIC Motor, the country's largest auto maker by volume, soared as much as 13 percent after reporting a 19.5 percent rise in net profit for 2013 while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) gained 2 percent despite reporting its weakest rise in profit growth in 7 years.

Meanwhile, China Citic Bank fell 1.5 percent after 2013 profit increased 26 percent.

Sydney ticks up 0.3%

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 ended near session highs, underpinned by gains in the financial sector. For the week, the index notched a 0.5 gain. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar hit a fresh four-month high of $0.9295 against the greenback.

Out of the nation's 'Big Four' lenders, National Australia Bank and Australia New Zealand Banking added 0.8 percent each.

Gold miners recovered despite bullion prices trading near six-week lows. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining rose over 1 percent each.

Read MoreThe year thus far: Japan crumbles, Indonesia shines

Kospi inches up 0.1%

South Korea's benchmark Kospi ended at their highest levels so far this year and posting their strongest weekly gain in seven months as strong foreign buying overshadowed weak data. Released before the market open, reports showed industrial output falling at a faster-than-expected pace in February.

Large-cap stocks underpinned gains with Hyundai Motor up 0.8 percent.

Emerging markets rally

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite rallied nearly 1 percent while Indian shares finished 0.4 percent higher.

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