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Nikkei, Kospi end at new highs ahead of US jobs data

Asian shares largely rose on Friday, supported by a stronger close on Wall Street overnight, with Japanese and South Korean markets scaling fresh highs.

Investors were also awaiting the U.S. nonfarm payrolls due later in the day; analysts expect about 240,000 nonfarm payrolls, below last month's 257,000.

Overnight, U.S. stocks broke a two-day losing streak to finish higher amid details of quantitative easing in the euro zone. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 inched up 0.1 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite finished 0.3 percent higher.

Meanwhile, Indian markets are closed for public holiday.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei rises 1.2%

Finishing just below the 19,000 milestone, Japan's Nikkei 225 index touched a fresh 15-year high with the help of a weaker yen, which last traded at 120.1 to the dollar. This led to a rally among key exporters; Honda, Canon and Panasonic notched up more than 2 percent each.

FamilyMart and UNY Group Holdings are in the spotlight after saying they are considering various tie-up options, including mergers, with other firms. While the former retreated 2.2 percent, the latter rallied 10.7 percent.

Recruit Holdings fell over 2 percent after announcing plans to buy German online restaurant reservation service provider Quandoo GmbH for $219 million.

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Mainland indices down

China's Shanghai Composite index pared gains in the afternoon session to settle down 0.2 percent as concerns over growth in the world's second-biggest economy took hold. On Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang announced an annual growth target of "about 7 percent" and highlighted that as the "new normal."

Blue-chip stocks such as the property developers reversed direction to head lower late Friday. While China Vanke held on to a 0.3 percent gain, Shanghai Shimao and China Merchants Property closed down 2.6 and 1.2 percent each. Financials withstood the negative sentiment, with Bank of Communications piling on 2.5 percent. Bank of China, meanwhile, added 0.8 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index inched down 0.2 percent. Shares of HKEx rose 0.3 percent following the release of annual profit results in the previous session.

ASX slips 0.1%

Australia's resource-heavy S&P ASX 200 index fell short of broader advances in the region Friday, hurt by a slump in iron ore prices overnight, while the Australian dollar edged up 0.2 percent to $0.7796 against the U.S. dollar.

Miners were among the biggest laggards; Fortescue Metals slumped 6.1 percent, while BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto lost more than 1 percent each. Junior miners Atlas Iron and BC Iron made it to the list of top losers, with a plunge of more than 5 percent each.

Regis Resources was battered, down 26.7 percent, after the gold miner reported "lower-than-expected production" over the January-March period and announced a debt restructure with Macquarie. Energy-related counters such as Oil Search also traded 2.5 percent lower.

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Kospi up 0.7%

South Korea's Kospi index finished the week at a five-month high of 2,012 on the back of a positive showing by tech players and automakers.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors elevated 3.3 and 2.4 percent, respectively. Within the tech space, SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics and Samsung SDI led gains by more than 1 percent each.

- CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report