Asia Advances on Firm China, US Data; BOJ Eyed

Asian shares ended higher on Friday as encouraging data from the United States and China boosted prospects for the global economy, while the yen hit new lows ahead of next week's Bank of Japan meeting. Both Tokyo and Hong Kong stock markets surged to multi-month highs on the upbeat sentiment.

Investors will be watching how much further Japanese equity markets can climb as the Bank of Japan begins it's two-day policy meeting next week. The central bank is currently mulling various options including open-ended asset purchases until 2 percent inflation is in sight or the more conventional approach of topping up asset-buying.

ASX 200
CNBC 100

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index advanced 0.9 percent.

Japan's Nikkei share average surged 2.9 percent as exporters gained on expectations of aggressive easing from the central bank next week, which put more downward pressure on the yen.

The benchmark index advanced 303.6 points for its biggest daily percent gain in 22 months and marking its longest weekly winning streak since 1987 while the broader Topix rallied 2.3 percent.

Exporters led Friday's gains, with Canon adding 2.9 percent, Honda Motor up 3.1 percent and Panasonic climbing 5.3 percent.

Sony jumped 12.2 percent to a six-month high after it announced its U.S. subsidiary would sell its New York headquarters building for $1.1 billion, expanding its operating income by an expected $684 million.

Nikon put on 5.1 percent after U.S. chip maker Intel - with whom it is developing a new chip stepper - beat analysts' estimates with its capital spending forecast for 2013.

Hong Kong shares closed at their highest in 19-1/2 months, led by growth-sensitive counters after data showed China's economy rebounded in the fourth quarter.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 1.1 percent on the day and 1.5 percent on the week at 23,601.8, its highest since June 1, 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 2.1 percent on Friday and 2.2 percent this week.

Chinese automakers were among the top performers on the day. Baoxin Auto surged 8.2 percent after Goldman Sachs added the China auto maker to its conviction list, citing its highest luxury car sales volume mix.

Gains on Friday helped the Hang Seng cover the gap on the chart that opened between June 1 and 2, 2011, something it has struggled to do since the start of the year.

A raft of China data added to evidence of a burgeoning recovery in exports, stronger than expected industrial output and retail sales, together with robust fixed asset investment, all signaled that Beijing's pro-growth policy mix has gained sufficient traction to underpin a revival without yet igniting inflationary risks.

Mainland Chinese shares posted their first gain in three days, led by strength in growth-sensitive sectors after data showed the world's second-largest economy grew by a slightly better-than-expected 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

The CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings closed up 1.7 percent at 2,595.4 points, bringing its gains for the week to 4.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.4 percent to 2,317.1, advancing 3.3 percent on the week.

China-focused consumer stocks were stronger after the country's statistics bureau said consumption was the largest overall contributor to economic growth last year.

China's largest footwear retailer Belle International bounced 2.5 percent, while embattled sports brand Li Ning jumped 4.9 percent, both in Hong Kong.

Shares of Gree Electric Appliances jumped 5.4 percent after China's largest appliance maker by sales said its net profit rose around 41 percent in 2012 on the back of higher sales.

South Korean shares rose as positive sentiment flowing from strong U.S. data overnight was cemented by fourth-quarter GDP data from China that proved in line with expectations.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) gained 0.7 percent to close at 1,987.85 points.

Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 0.8 percent, snapping a three-session losing streak.

Financial shares were up across the board, as state-owned Woori Finance and affiliate Woori Investment & Securities closed up 3.8 percent and 5.7 percent respectively on renewed hopes for Woori's privatization.

Australian shares closed up 0.3 percent to sit around a 20-month high, largely unchanged from China's fourth-quarter growth data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 finished 14.5 points higher at 4,771.2

Global miner Rio Tinto jumped 2.7 percent after chief executive Tom Albanese stepped down following billions of dollars of write-offs on aluminium and coal assets, to be replaced by iron ore division chief Sam Walsh.

The mining sector posted broad gains, with top miner BHP Billiton adding 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals jumping 3.2 percent.

Qantas Airways slipped as much as 1 percent after cancelling a firm order for one Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the expectation that it's budget carrier Jetstar's long-haul operations will experience slower growth, according to The Australian.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index declined 0.7 percent to 4,164.1 points.

Over in Southeast Asia, the Straits Times Index ended up 0.5 percent while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index closed down 0.3 percent.

India's BSE Index finished up 0.3 percent while the 50-share NSE Index ended 0.4 percent higher.