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Asia on Track for Best Weekly Rise in 3 Months

Asian stock markets were set for their best weekly finish in three months on Friday, responding to growing confidence in the U.S. economic outlook, which fueled a rally on Wall Street and sent commodity prices higher.

Japan's stocks climbed for a second session, on expectations for a big rise in U.S. payrolls and a weaker yen, but players said trade is set to stay choppy near-term on worries over oil.

The mood in Tokyo brightened after data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid hit the lowest level in more than 2-½ years last week and service sector hiring picked up in February, hinting that the labour market recovery was quickening.

The benchmark Nikkei ended the day up 1 percent. The broader Topix gained 0.7 percent.

Seoul shares rose, fueled by the biggest foreign net buying in two months, as optimism over the economic outlook boosted shares in banks such as Hana Financial Group.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 1.73 percent.

Australian stocks rose 1.2 percent to a two-week closing high, following a pullback in oil prices from 2-1/2 year highs and renewed confidence in the U.S. economic outlook.

Shares rose 0.6 percent for the week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 climbed 57.86 points to 4,864.30, according to latest available data. The index eked out a meagre 3.2 point gain on Thursday, reversing three days of falls.

Miners were among the leading stocks with Newcrest up 4.7 percent, Rio Tinto gaining 1.6 percent and BHP Billiton up 1.5 percent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group saw the smallest increase among big lenders. It nudged up 0.6 percent. ANZ declined to comment on whether it would seek to raise its stake in Malaysian lender AMMB Holdings, after the Malaysian Prime Minister told Reuters that the country was open to the idea.

Hong Kong and Shanghai shares rose, with benchmarks in both markets poised for weekly gains, although volumes remained light and gains were driven by a bout of short-covering after Wall Street's bounce on Thursday.

The benchmark Hang Seng closed up 1.2 percent, managing to hold above a chart resistance that had capped the index's advance several times in the past two months. The China Enterprises Index rose 1.4 percent.

Shanghai's key stock index ended 1.4 percent higher with property counters outperforming in anticipation of more policies to support affordable housing.

China Vanke, the country's biggest developer by sales, is due to release annual results on Monday. The stock climbed 1.1 percent.

Shares of Tencent Holdings, which dominates China's online gaming industry, rose 4.6 percent to a record high and were the biggest boost to the broader market.

Bucking the upward trend, Chinese car maker BYD shares fell 2 percent after it reported that its February sales had fallen by about half compared with January. Shares of BYD, down 16.3 percent this year, are still overvalued by some measures with most analysts wary of the company's abilities to gain market share and meet targets.

Singapore's Straits Times Index ended the day 0.8 percent higher, led by strong gains in property developer Hongkong Land.

Shares of property developer Hongkong Land jumped as much as 5.4 percent after it reported strong earnings for the full year, traders said.

Wilmar International, the world's largest listed palm oil firm, rose 0.6 percent after news about its plan to enter Indonesia's flour market.

The FTSE CNBC 100 Index climbed 0.5 percent.