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Japan, South Korea End the Week on a High Note

Tokyo stocks closed at a three-month high while Seoul shares rose to their highest in six months Friday. Trading was limited around the region with the Australian, Hong Kong and Singapore markets closed for the Good Friday holiday.

U.S. stocks rallied on news that No. 4 bank Wells Fargo expects to post a record $3 billion first-quarter profit, causing its shares to soar 31.7 percent on Thursday. This also lifted the U.S. dollar on hopes a sector that sparked the global financial crisis is healing. The rally in global stocks capped a fifth straight week of gains among the major U.S. stock indexes, including the Dow and and S&P 500, and MSCI's world equity index.

The U.S. dollar was strengthened against both the yen and the euro , while oil futures rose to trade above $52 a barrel, fueled by the equity rally and by data that showed the number of American workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average gained 0.5 percent, hitting a three-month closing high, though Mizuho Financial Group and other banks tumbled as worries about bank shareholding losses reignited. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Japan's third-largest bank, went untraded after it said it faces a net loss of $3.9 billion for the financial year just ended and will raise as much as $8 billion through the sale of shares. The Nikkei finished 2.4 percent higher on the week for its fifth successive week of gains, the first such run in nearly a year.

Seoul shares closed up 1.5 percent on growing optimism about the economy, fueled by a positive growth estimate for the first quarter from South Korea's central bank, helping shares hit a new six-month closing-high.

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China's Shanghai Composite Index climbed over 2 percent in active turnover, led by non-ferrous metal shares as futures prices surged while coal producers and insurers also rose, with a rally in U.S. stocks aiding sentiment. Jiangxi Copper gained 7 percent after Shanghai
copper futures rose by their 5 percent daily limit. Coal shares rose, with its leader China Shenhua Energy gaining 2.7 percent. Ping An Insurance climbed 2.6 percent after jumping 5.95 percent Thursday, partly due to easing concerns over losses on its investment in Fortis.
Ping An took a combined 22.79 billion yuan impairment loss on its stake in the European financial services group last year, but the chances of any further losses on Fortis this year are very low, its president said on Thursday.