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Market Update

Asian Stocks Mostly Higher; Shanghai Recovers

Asian markets finished Friday's choppy session on a positive note with Shanghai-listed stocks bouncing back as investors chose to focus on positive manufacturing data.

The Shanghai Composite ended 1.4% higher. The index dropped as much as 0.7% earlier in the day after a government report said China's manufacturing PMI fell to 50.40 in January from 50.60 in December. Though the reading was above the crucial mark of 50 that separates expansion from contraction in the economy, analysts were expecting the reading to come in higher at 50.90.

However, investors soon turned their attention towards another report offering a conflicting view. The HSBC purchasing managers' index rose to 52.3 in January from 51.5 in December, indicating expansion in the economy.

The Hang Seng, too, pared early losses and finished flat.

Among other indexes, the Nikkei added 0.5% and the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries rose 0.8%, but the Sensex lost momentum and ended down 0.6%.

In other economic news, Australian producer price inflation increased a less-than-expected seasonally adjusted 0.2% in the previous quarter from 0.6% earlier.

Separate reports published in Japan showed the country's unemployment rate rose unexpectedly last month while household spending declined more than anticipated.

Stocks on the move

Gains in Tokyo came despite lacklustre data as the yen grewer weaker against the dollar, raising the earnings outlook of exporters, and amid some upbeat earnings.

The yen dropped 0.4% against the greenback and was trading around 92.08 per dollar during Asian trading hours.

Among the those benefitting from the yen's weakness were car manufacturers, Toyota Motor up 3% and Mazda Motor up 4.5%.

Sharp Corp. jumped nealry 6% ahead of its earnings release after the bell today.

Softbank Corp. surged around 6% after posting a twofold increase in quarterly profits while NEC Corp. soared nearly 9% after earnings topped estimates.

Brokerage house Nomura Holdings late Thursday posted more than seven times increase in quarter profits. But its shares were down 2.7% as investors locked in profits.

Also moving lower, Shiseido Co. tumbled over 7% after its third-quarter results missed analyst expectations.

TDK Corp. and Kyocera were down more than 6% and 1.5% respectively after the firms downgraded their respective outlook for fiscal year profits.

Japan Tobacco moved up 4% after upgrading its full-year profit guidance.

In Hong Kong, property developers extended losses. China Overseas Land & Investment dropped 2.3% while Sino Land Company fell 1.5%.

Resources were also weak -- Angang Steel erased 3.3% while Aluminum Corp. of China erased earlier losses to finish flat.

Financials recovered some of the earlier losses. ICBC was up 0.7% while Hang Seng Bank edged up 0.2%.

Robust gains in mainland Chinese financials helped pushed the benchmark SSE Composite index higher. Citic Securities Ltd. rose 3.6% while Haitong Securities Company soared more than 5%. China Merchants Securities bounced nearly 10%.

In Sydney, miners notched up with index leader BHP Billition and fellow rival Rio Tinto adding 1 to 1.5% each. Diversified miner Fortescue Metals Group was up 2.4%.

Among other gainers were some consumer-related stocks -- franchisor Harvey Norman Holdings climbed 3.6%, surf-wear retailer Billabong International added 1.6% and food retailer Goodman Fielder gained 2.3%.

On the other side of the rung, Mumbai-listed stocks lost initial gains and pushed lower led by telecom giant Bharti Airtel.

Shares of the telecom operator fell 2.6% after its results came in lower than expected.

Among other notable losers, Tata Motors fell 4.4%, ONGC retreated more than 2% while Hindalco Industries lost 2%.