Fed, US jobs in focus
Gains on Wall Street overnight helped to lift sentiment in Asia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its first record close of the year after the Federal Reserve reduced its monthly bond buying program by another $10 billion, its fourth consecutive cut.
Traders cheered the FOMC statement since it indicated growth was picking up even as data showed that first-quarter gross domestic product inched up just 0.1 percent from the previous year, a full percentage point below expectations.
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Attention now turns to the release of Friday's non-farm payrolls report. Reuters is predicting a 200,000 gain in April jobs, which would be a modest improvement from from March's 192,000.
Nikkei gains 1.3%
Japanese shares ended at their highest levels in over a week, extending gains into a second session, thanks to strong earnings results. For the month of April, the benchmark Nikkei posted a 2.7 percent loss while the yen gained 1 percent.
Nomura surged 6.3 percent despite reporting its first profit decline in seven quarters after the market close on Wednesday. Investors were cheering the firm's announcement of a share buyback program.
Rival brokerage Daiwa Securities jumped 3 percent afters its fourth-quarter net profit beat analyst expectations.
Full-year earnings results from Sumitomo and Itochu are due for release later in the day.
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ASX slips 0.8%
Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 index erased gains to finish at a two-week low, dragged down by steep losses in the banking sector. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar remained resilient just below the 93 U.S. cent handle following China's official factory figures.
Australia New Zealand Banking fell 1.2 percent despite posting a 15 percent rise in half-year net profit, which slightly beating expectations. That sparked a near 2 percent fall for National Australia Bank and a 1.2 percent decline for Westpac.
Miners also weighed on the benchmark index. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals lost 1.7 and 4 percent respectively, on the back of falling iron-ore prices.