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Asia traded higher as traders eyed Fed, BOJ decisions next week

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Asian stocks rose on Friday in a relatively quiet session as several markets in the region were shut, while traders looked ahead to next week's key central bank meetings in the U.S. and Japan.

Markets in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong were closed for public holidays.

In Australia, the ASX 200 advanced 56.83 points, or 1.08 percent, to 5,296.69, with most sectors climbing. The energy sector finished up 1.24 percent, boosted likely by overnight strength in oil prices, while the heavily-weighted financials sub-index added 1.07 percent.

Japan's gained 114.28 points, or 0.70 percent, on Friday to close at 16,519.29, while the Topix index was up 10.39 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,311.50.

Major banking stocks in Japan, which came under pressure earlier this week when a local media report appeared to have suggested the Bank of Japan could cut rates further into negative territory, gained more than 1 percent each.

Shares of Mitsubishi UFJ were up 2.71 percent at 511.2 yen ($5.01), SMFG added 2.24 percent 3,420 yen and Mizuho Financial was higher by 1.70 percent 173.4 yen.

In India, the Nifty 50 was up 0.99 percent in afternoon trade, while the Sensex gained 1.17 percent. Singapore's Strait Times Index was up 0.56 percent.

The Asian session followed gains in U.S. equities on Thursday, where the rose 177.71 points, or 0.99 percent, to 18,212.48. The S&P 500 gained 21.49 points, or 1.01 percent, to 2,147.26, while the advanced 75.92 points, or 1.47 percent, to 5,249.69.

"The bulls have wrestled some sort of control back in U.S. equity indices, but ... there is still a good amount of technical work to be done for the bulls to fully be in control," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at brokerage firm IG, said in a morning note.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

The dollar moved little against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index at 95.344 as of 3:41 p.m. HK/SIN. This was slightly lower than the 95.499 level it traded at on Thursday afternoon Asia time.

The lack of noticeable movement in the dollar followed soft economic data stateside: initial jobless claims came in at 260,000 for the week ended September 10, which was below expectations. The producer price index for August was unchanged and retail sales fell more than expected.

"These disappointing reports should have driven the U.S. dollar sharply lower, but instead the greenback ended the day higher versus the British pound and unchanged against the euro and the Japanese yen," said Kathy Lien, managing director for foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management.

Major currency pairs traded relatively flat compared to their last close.

Mizuho Bank's currency strategist Wei Liang Chang said in a note that currencies that previously outperformed due to a "hardening [of] Fed rate expectations" were now "seeing a reversal."

The Japanese yen was at 101.95 on Friday afternoon local time, compared to its last close at 102.09. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7509, slipping from an earlier high of $0.7526, while the euro traded at $1.1235, compared to its previous close at $1.1241.

The slew of disappointing U.S. data may make the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its September policy meeting much harder to make. Fed officials have previously said their decision was data-dependent.

"The economy seems to be unable to sustain without central bank support," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at spreadbettor ThinkMarkets. "This could become a serious problem for the Fed and they can soon start paddling backwards."

The Indian rupee also traded relatively flat against the dollar at 66.86 as of 1:37 p.m. HK/SIN, despite media reports suggesting the government was considering a possible devaluation proposal.

Reuters reported, however, the finance ministry dismissed the suggestion, with ministry's economic affairs secretary telling reporters on Thursday that the value of rupee was determined by the market.

Economists warned such a move was not needed as it could undermine efforts to shore up investor confidence and may end up harming the prospects for the world's fastest growing major economy.

"Not only could such a shift harm investment interests and trigger capital outflows, but [it could] also dilute the boost from the ongoing reform agenda," said Singapore-based DBS Bank's economist Radhika Rao.

"Memories of China's attempt to devalue its currency last year and the resultant spike in volatility will also be a deterrent for the Indian authorities," Rao added.

Oil prices retreated Friday afternoon Asia time, after seeing some rebound overnight. U.S. crude futures fell 0.73 percent to $43.59 a barrel, after climbing 0.8 percent in the U.S. session. Global benchmark Brent fell 0.69 percent to $46.27, after adding 1.6 percent overnight.

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