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Asian Stocks Mixed, Eye US Payrolls Data

Major Asian indexes traded mix on Friday, with some markets turning around following several consecutive sessions of downward trading. But the mood was cautious after weak U.S. economic data and signs of a slowdown in China fanned fears about the global recovery.

On Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management's barometer of growth in U.S. manufacturing activity slipped to a six-month low, while initial jobless claims increased to 472,000. The market had expected claims to decline to 452,000.

The June non-farm payrolls report, due out later on Friday, is expected to show a decline of 110,000, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

Japan's Nikkei stock average clawed higher in choppy trade, keeping above a key retracement support level as concern about the strength of the global economic recovery mounted ahead of U.S. jobs data.

The Nikkei benchmark moved in and out of negative territory but managed to end the day above 9,200, around the level of its 50 percent retracement from its March 2009 low to its high in April.

It rose 0.1 percent or 12.11 points to 9,203.71. It shed 5.5 percent on the week, its worst week in more than a month.

The broader Topix rose 0.3 percent to 830.98.

Battered exporters gained ground as bargain hunting emerged following five straight sessions of losses. Sony rose 0.6 percent to 2,310 yen and Canon gained 1.0 percent to 3,260 yen.

Toshiba climbed 1.5 yen to 446 yen after the Nikkei business daily said it would supply lithium-ion batteries for an electric vehicle that Mitsubishi Motors plans to launch in the near future.

Seven & I lost 2 percent to 1,983 yen. Japan's largest retailer reported a fall of almost 11 percent quarterly operating profit, though it stuck to its annual forecast for moderate growth, helped by cost-cuts.

Seoul shares gave up earlier modest gains to end the session lower, as weaker-than-expected
economic data from the U.S. and China dented sentiment and prompted foreign and institutional selling.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 0.86 percent or 14.42 points to 1,671.82 points.

Shares in LG Electronics bounced 1.5 percent after a prolonged losing streak since early June, in which the shares shed more than 14 percent compared to the broader market's 1.5 percent rise as of Thursday's close. LG Display was up 1.15 percent.

Shipbuilders advanced, fueled by news Samsung Heavy Industries won 1.27 trillion won ($1.04 billion) worth of orders to build 10 container ships. Shares in Samsung Heavy were up 2.4 percent and Hyundai Heavy Industries climbed 3.0 percent.

Shares in GS Engineering & Construction retreated 4.3 percent after the builder said it had called off a 1.42 trillion won ($1.2 billion) gas project in Iran following sanctions on the Middle East nation.

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index eked out a 1 point gain to end an eight-day losing streak. But stocks were well off the day's highs as investors shrugged off the conclusion of the much-disputed "super profit" mining tax and focused on worries over the global recovery.

The new tax deal, announced early on Friday, removes a major uncertainty for Australian stocks but investors remain wary over the threats posed by the European debt issue, as well as U.S. and China growth.

Miners, which had climbed early pared gains. BHP Billiton was flat and Rio Tinto ended up 0.3 percent, having traded over 2 percent higher early.

The benchmark index closed 0.03 percent higher to 4,238.7 points.


Healthcare software services provider iSoft soared 15 percent on a media report that private equity firms were eyeing the company.

In the Greater China region, Taiwan stocks climbed 1.0 percent as they rebounded from three sessions of declines.

The TAIEX index advanced 76.68 points to 7,330.74.

Banks led gains on a view that they will benefit in the long term from closer trade links with China. The banking sub-index gained 4 percent, with Fubon Financial up 2.5 percent and Cathay Financial rising 3.0 percent.

Taiwan Cooperative Bank, which is expected to be among the first to boost its presence in China, jumped 5.0 percent.

Chip companies lagged the broader market's gains, however, on concern about future demand. The chip sub-index rose 0.7 percent, with heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing up 0.5 percent and rival United Microelectronics Corp gaining 0.3 percent.

Talk globally of a "double-dip" recession that could crimp demand for Taiwan's top exports, particularly technology, could mean that any market rebound is short-lived, analysts said.

Hong Kong stocks came under pressure, extending a 2-week closing low hit the previous session, with Chalco down after cutting spot aluminium prices.

The benchmark Hang Seng index was trading down 0.95 percent at 19,937.68.

HSBC, Europe's largest bank, declined 1.1 percent after the STOXX Europe 600 banking index fell as worries over the global economic recovery intensified after U.S. jobless, home sales and factory data disappointed.

Chinese banks also suffered, with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China down almost 2 percent as smaller rival Agricultural Bank of China faces headwinds as it prepares to complete its massive IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Aluminum Corp of China's listed unit Chalco fell about 2 percent to a three-week intraday low after it said it had cut spot alumina prices by 7 percent since Thursday as demand slips.

But Hong Kong's developers showed strength, with shares of New World Development, Sino Land, Hang Lung Properties rising. News that two Hong Kong residential sites to be put up for auction in August would likely draw good interest lending support to the sector.

China's key stock index rose 0.4 percent on Friday, bouncing from a 15-month low, as the market found technical support around 2,300 points.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Indexclosed at 2,382.9 points, after dropping to a fresh 15-month intraday low earlier in the session.

The index fell 6.7 percent this week, its biggest weekly fall since March 2009. The market has lost over 27 percent of its value since the start of the year and is one of the world's worst performers, second only to Greece.