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Asia Is Mixed Ahead of US Jobs Data

Asian stock markets were mixed on Friday, as investors were cautious ahead of a key U.S. jobs report, which is expected to show the economy gained 513,000 non-farm jobs in May, adding to a string of recent positive economic data.

Tokyo's Nikkei average finished 0.1 percent lower in a lackluster session, after posting its biggest one-day rise in six months the previous day.

The market reacted mildly to news that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has selected Finance Minister Naoto Kan as its new leader and the country's next prime minister, as the outcome came widely expected.

Kan, a fiscal conservative and viewed by some as a proponent for a weaker yen, had been seen as the front-runner for the job after former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said he would
resign on Wednesday.

Financial market players said they were waiting for more developments, such as the make-up of the new cabinet, to gauge the new government's stance on economic and fiscal issues.

The benchmark Nikkei fell 13 points to 9,901.19 after gaining 3.2 percent on Thursday, its biggest one-day rise since Dec. 3. The broader Topix dipped 0.1 percent to 890.16.

One key level for the Nikkei is 9,900, a February low and a level that has been both support and resistance in turn, several times, over the past few years.

Fuji Heavy Industries soared 6.2 percent to 562 yen after the Nikkei business daily reported that the Subaru car maker's operating profit in North America was expected to jump 40
percent to a record high 45 billion yen ($486 million) for the year through March 2011.

Tech exporters gained as well on hopes that brighter U.S. economic prospects will lead to increased business spending on high tech.

Tokyo Electron rose 1.45 percent to 5,580 yen, chip tester maker Advantest Corp rose 0.9 percent to 2,105 yen, and Canon rose 0.65 percent to 3,880 yen.

Shares of Astellas Pharma gained 0.7 percent to 2,969 yen after Japan's No.2 drugmaker said on Thursday that investors offered about 87 percent of OSI Pharmaceuticals' shares in response to its $4 billion bid for the U.S. biotech firm.

Astellas was widely expected to gather enough shareholder support for the takeover after it sweetened its offer last month to $57.5 per share.

Seoul Ekes Out Gains

Seoul shares ended 0.14 percent higher, buoyed by tech stocks but losses in financials and caution before key U.S. job data capped gains.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.14 percent at 1,664.13 points.

South Korea's economy grew by a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months, revised central bank data showed on Friday, stronger than estimated earlier.

Samsung SDI rose to a more than eight-month high amid growing expectations it would benefit from unit Samsung Mobile Display's positive earnings momentum. Its shares were up 3.53 percent at 176,000 won, after hitting as high as 177,500 won, the highest since late
September 2009.

A stronger outlook for the memory chip sector and Fitch's rating upgrade of Hynix Semiconductor, boosted shares of the world's No.2 memory chip firm by 6 percent. Samsung Electronics, the world's No.1 memory chip maker, gained 2.0 percent.

But financials retreated after rallying in the previous session. Hana Financial fell 0.3
percent and Korea Exchange Bank lost 2.9 percent.

Australia Loses Ground

Australian shares fell 0.8 percent, pushing the benchmark index into the red for the week,
as weak metals prices took a toll miners, and investors stayed away ahead of key U.S. jobs data.

Miners fell after industrial metal prices tumbled. Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Billiton dropped more than 2 percent each.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200was down 36.6 points at 4,449.4, according to latest available data. It fell 0.2 percent for the week.

The index rose 2.4 percent in the previous trading session after three consecutive days of losses.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 6 points to 3,030.14.

National Australia Bank lost 2.9 percent after trading without access to its dividends and saying it was in talks to sell AXA Asia Pacific's retail platform as part of its takeover offer.

Wealth Manager IOOF Holdings slipped 2.85 percent. The Australian news paper touted it as a potential buyer for AXA Asia Pacific's retail investment platform North as NAB tries to appease the regulator and close the takeover of AXA.

HSI Turns Higher

Stocks in Hong Kong reversed course to trade higher in the afternoon but the cautious mood keeping investors on the sidelines.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index up 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,830.8.

Resources plays retreated, with CNOOC down 1.3 percent at HK$12.30 and Chalco losing 3.0 percent at HK$6.22, after they advanced 3.0 percent and 3.4 percent respectively on Thursday.

China's key stock index closed slightly higher in thin trade, with banking stocks curbing gains ahead of listing details for Agricultural Bank of China's initial public offering (IPO) later in the session.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended the day at 2,553.6 points, after falling 0.7 percent on Thursday.

The index has fallen 3.8 percent this week and remains one of Asia's worst performers this year, down 22 percent after China unleashed a range of policies to tame speculation in the country's property sector.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission plans to release on Friday long-awaited documents for Agricultural Bank of China'sroughly $30 billion initial public offering, a sign the deal is on track for a listing approval hearing next week.

Taiex Slips 0.2%

Taiwan stocks closed 0.2 percent lower, paced by financials, as investors held back ahead of key U.S. jobs data due later in the day that will give a clue on the health of Taiwan's No.2 export market.

The market also awaited May sales reports from local tech firms due out next week to gauge the strength of the sector's recovery.

The main TAIEX share index lost 15.7 points at 7,344.59 after rising 2.3 percent the previous day.

TSMC and UMC, the world's two largest contract chipmakers, gained 0.3 percent and shed 1.6 percent, respectively, ahead of next week's May sales report.

In Southeast Asia, markets in Singapore and Malaysia edged lower, in light of the cautious mood. The STI rose 0.2 percent while the KLCI was up 0.1 percent.