HONG KONG: Asian markets took a breather Friday after seeing healthy gains during the week on hopes for US and European stimulus, while dealers also awaited the release of Chinese trade data later in the day.
Wall Street provided a weak lead despite upbeat US jobs and trade data that indicate a positive outlook for the world's number one economy.
Tokyo eased 0.61 percent by the break, Hong Kong fell 0.43 percent, Sydney was 0.40 percent lower and Shanghai was flat, but Seoul added 0.12 percent.
Global markets have rallied this week after European Central Bank comments last week gave investors confidence it will restart its sovereign bond-buying programme soon to help debt-mired countries such as Spain and Italy.
There are also expectations the Federal Reserve will return to its asset-purchasing programme to kick start the US economy.
Optimism that the banks will step in saw Tokyo gain almost five percent over the past four sessions, while Hong Kong added more than three percent and Seoul was five percent higher.
Wall Street also posted positive gains but its rally ran out of steam on Thursday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending flat while the Nasdaq put on 0.25 percent, despite bright jobs and trade data.
US weekly new jobless claims fell to 361,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, in another sign that the jobs market has some moderate strength despite the second quarter lull in hiring.
Meanwhile, the US trade deficit narrowed in June for the third straight month, with exports continuing to climb while imports eased.
However, Asian dealers are now looking to Beijing, which will release key trade figures later Friday, providing a better idea of the state of the export-dependent economic giant.
The data come a day after statistics showing inflation, retail sales and output had eased in July -- giving the country's policy makers more room to loosen monetary policy to push waning growth.
On currency markets the greenback was quoted at 78.65 yen in early trade, slightly up from 78.55 yen in New York late Thursday.
The euro stood at $1.2299 and 96.64 yen, compared with $1.2301 and 96.62 yen.
Oil prices were flat. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, rose a cent to $93.37 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude for September delivery fell four cents to $113.18.
Gold was at $1,614.40 at 0240 GMT, from $1,613.25 on Thursday.
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