Asia Up on 'Cliff' Hopes; Japan Hits 2012 High

Asian stock markets closed higher on Friday as investors hoped for an 11th-hour budget compromise to avert the so-called U.S "fiscal cliff" ahead of a meeting by President Barack Obama and key lawmakers, while Japanese stocks posted their bets yearly gain of 2012.

ASX 200
CNBC 100

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index crept up 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei average climbed to a 21-month high as the yen weakened further on rising expectations of aggressive monetary stimulus under new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The benchmark index ended 0.7 percent higher at 10,395.1 points while the broader Topix rose 0.8 percent to 860.1. The Nikkei is up 23 percent this year, its best yearly gain since 2005.

Exporters were in demand, with Toyota Motor, Honda Motor, Canon and Nikon, all up between 1.1 and 2.3 percent. Index heavyweight and industrial robot maker Fanuc gained 1.2 percent.

Tokyo Electric Power slumped 6.3 percent while Kansai Electric Power lost 4.7 percent after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will restart the nation's idled nuclear reactors, the Nikkei reported early Friday.

Toshiba rallied 5 percent on media reports that it is in talks with three parties to sell a portion of its stake in its nuclear power unit Westinghouse.

Australian shares rode iron ore stocks up to finish at a 19-month high, with a recovery in battered mining shares helping drive the market to its strongest annual gain since 2009.

The benchmark S&P ASX 200 index rose 23.3 points to end at 4,671.3, its highest close since June 2, 2011. The benchmark is on track to post gains of around 15 percent for the year.

Miners were supported by robust gains in spot iron ore prices, which have climbed to eight-month highs at $139.40. BHP Billiton rose 1.1 percent, while Rio Tinto gained 1.7 percent. Fortescue Metals and Atlas Iron rose 2 percent and BC Iron climbed 5.8 percent.

Local miners were supported by robust gains in spot iron ore prices, which have climbed to eight-month highs. BHP Billiton gained 1.1 percent and Rio Tinto advancing 1.6 percent. Smaller miners also benefited, with Aquila up 1.4 percent, Atlas Iron up 3.6 percent andIluka gaining 4.2 percent.

The day's top gainer was small appliance maker Breville Group, which surged 9 percent to a record high of A$7.00, propelled by growth in its U.S. sales.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent to finish at 4,080.9.

South Korean shares finished the year higher boosted by heavyweight Samsung Electronics in a thin trading session despite the unresolved U.S. fiscal negotiations and the slide of automakers.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 0.5 percent to close at 1,997.05 points, a one-week high..

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors fell to their lowest levels in more than one month as the won's value against the yen headed for the fastest annual gain since 1998, according to Reuters data.

However, Samsung Electronics, which accounts for around a fifth of the KOSPI's market value, ended up 1.7 percent to reach its second-highest closing price of 1,522,000 Korean won ($1,400).

South Korean markets will reopen on January 2, one hour later than usual after a brief opening ceremony to ring in the new year.

Mainland Chinese shares closed at their highest since June, with strength in the consumer and financial sectors helping benchmark indexes post a fourth-straight weekly gain.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings ended up 1.5
percent on the day. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.2 percent on Friday. Both indexes closed at their respective highest since June 21. With one more day of trade in 2012, they are up 5.7 and 1.5 percent on the year, set for their first annual gain in three years.

Chinese automakers were also stronger after the sector was cited in the China Securities Journal report as possible policy reform beneficiaries. SAIC Motor rose 3.1 percent in Shanghai. Warren Buffett-backed BYD jumped 3.9 percent in Hong Kong and 2.9 percent in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong shares crept to their highest close in almost 18 months, with investors rotating into Chinese non-banking financial counters after the central bank pledged faster reforms in the sector.

The Hang Seng ended up 0.2 percent on the day and 0.7 percent on the week at 22,666.6, its highest closing level since July 8, 2011. The China Enterprise Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent on Friday and 1.3 percent this week.

With just half a day of trade to go in 2012, the Hang Seng Index is up 23 percent on the year after slumping 20 percent in 2011. The China Enterprises Index is up 14.5 percent after sinking 22 percent last year.

Chinese brokerages soared after China's central bank pledged to quicken the pace of reforming and opening up the sector in 2013, while preventing systemic risks. Citic Securities surged 10.7 percent to a record high since its October 2011 high, while Haitong Securities soared 6.9 percent.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.2 percent higher while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index finished up 0.4 percent.

India's BSE Index ended 0.7 percent higher while the 50-share NSE Index closed up 0.6 percent.