Asia Markets

Asian shares mostly higher on US gains, China easing hopes

It's nothing new: China stocks shrug off bad data

Asian shares traded mostly firmer on Friday, with Shanghai and Tokyo recovering from Thursday's sell-off following a positive lead from Wall Street and bets that Beijing will roll out more easing measures on the back of a fresh dismal economic data.

Overnight, Wall Street finished higher, helped by a surge in tech stocks ahead of the key April jobs report. The Nasdaq Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.5 percent each, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent.

In another relief for the stock market, Treasurys paused their rally with bond yields coming off morning highs. The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield traded near 2.18 percent after hitting a high of 2.27 percent. Thirty-year bond yields traded around 2.91 percent after topping 3 percent, a four-month high.

Attention will now turn to the closely-watched U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due later in the day, which will shed some light on the state of the U.S. recovery and its capacity to withstand rate increases. A Reuters poll expects the U.S. to add 208,000 jobs in April, after posting its worst report since December 2013 in March with the creation of 126,000 jobs.

Shanghai Comp up 2.3%

China's Shanghai Composite broke a three-day losing streak as it overlooked a set of weaker-than-expected trade data released earlier in the session, but remained down 5.3 percent for the week, marking its worst performance since July 2010, according to Reuters data.

Expectations for further easing are likely why the Shanghai bourse recovered from the poor performance earlier this week, sparked by worries over further government measures curbing speculation and the possibility that new stock listings may sap funds from existing equities. "This [positive reaction] isn't a big surprise. It's just a continuation of a theme that poor data is good for China, with policy support unlikely to go away soon," Jason Ambrose, founder & CEO of Vanda Research, told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia."

After the softness in the import data, you have to expect further easing," said Paul Mackel, head of Asia Currency Research at HSBC, who expects "a couple of cut in policy rates and reserve requirement ratio" over the next few months. "The 100-basis-point cut in RRR on April 19 suggests that Beijing may be prepared to be a bit more aggressive than people think," he added.

Bargain hunters swooped in on stocks that were heavily sold off this week; China Shipbuilding and China State Construction Engineering climbed 2.9 and 3.5 percent each, while Agricultural Bank of China made gains of 1.4 percent.

Other banking majors also traded on the plus side, with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank jumping over 1 percent each.

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ASX sheds 0.2%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index finished at a three-month trough, as stellar gains in investment bank Macquarie were offset by lagging resources plays. The index traded in the black for most of the day but turned negative near the end of the afternoon session.

Macquarie leaped 3.5 percent after posting its best annual profit since 2008 before the market open. Other financial plays failed to hold on to gains, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking declining 0.6 and 2 percent, respectively

Weaker commodity prices and soft trade data from China weighed on oil producers and iron ore miners. Santos and Woodside Petroleum closed down 4.9 and 3.6 percent each, while Fortescue Metals and BHP Billiton sold off 3.1 and 1.9 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lowered its growth and inflation estimates for 2015 and 2016, saying the economy will continue to grow at a subpar rate for a longer than expected period. This quarterly monetary policy statement comes on the back of a 25-basis-point rate cut onTuesday.

The Australian dollar fell as low as $0.7875 against the greenback upon the announcement, but quickly regained lost grounds to trade at $0.7905.

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Nikkei gains 0.5%

Japan's Nikkei 225 moved away from Thursday's one-month closing low, drawing support from Wall Street and a robust performance in Nintendo's shares which got a fillip from posting its first annual profit in four years.

In earnings released late Thursday, the gamemaker posted an operating profit of nearly 25 billion yen after finally making the move into mobile games with a partnership with DeNA, a provider of mobile portal and e-commerce websites. Shares of both companies elevated 7 and 6.2 percent each.

Heavyweight component Fast Retailing gave up earlier gains to close flat after delivering an annual rise of 19.3 percent in April's same-store sales.

Ahead of announcing its earnings for the year to March, Japan's largest carmaker Toyota Motor advanced 0.8 percent.

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Kospi slips 0.3%

South Korea's key Kospi index ended down at a four-week low, after being virtually flat throughout the day.

Blue-chips largely traded on the negative side; Samsung Electronics and KB Financial Group lost 2.3 and 1.5 percent, respectively, while steelmaker Posco notched down 0.6 percent.

The country's top cosmetics maker AmorePacific plummeted 3 percent on its first day of trade following a 10-for-1 stock split. Trading of Amore's shares have been put on hold since April 21 to prepare for lowering the face value of its common stocks from 5,000 to 500 won.

— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng and Fred Imbert contributed to this report