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Market Update

Asian Markets Mixed; Stronger Yen Hurts Nikkei

Asian equities were trading on either side of the flatline Friday, with Japanese firms pulling back from recent sharp gains on account of a stronger currency.

The Nikkei dropped 0.8% at 11:45 a.m. Tokyo time. The Shanghai Composite was flat while the Hang Seng edged up 0.3%.

The BSE Sensex fell 1.4% at open while the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries added 0.1%.

Wall Street equities rallied Thursday after a surprise drop in the number of U.S. jobless claims last week booste investor confidence.

However, sentiment was cautious during the Asian session ahead of key economic data due next week in China. First quarter GDP numbers as well as industrial production and retail sales for March will be released on Monday.

Among currencies, the yen reversed its course after days of softening against the dollar. At the time of writing, the USD/JPY was trading down 0.3% at 99.40.

Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank's inflation target of 2% is "flexible" and that the central bank would take necessary steps to ensure the aggressive easing policies do not result in bubbles in stock markets or other asset classes.

Stocks on the move

Exporters in Tokyo were mostly in the red as a stronger yen prompted investors to book profits after a streak of strong gains in recent sessions.

Sharp Corp. and Toshiba, however, bucked the trend adding 7.8% and 1.1% respectively.

Also on the upside, power utilities soared higher. Kyushu Electric Power surged nearly 19% while Tokyo Electric Power boosted 13%.

But auto makers skidded amid news the country's top auto manufacturers have recalled at least 3 million vehicles worldwide for defects in airbags made by Takata Corp.

Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and Nissan Motor backtracked around 0.2% to 1.5% while Takata Corp. fell 2.5%.

On the earnings front, Fast Retailing slipped 0.9% after its first-half profit came in lower than estimates.

In Hong Kong, property developers gained ground. Poly Property Group traded 1.4% higher while Sino Land Company was up 1.4%. New World Development enhanced 2.4%.

Financials and exporters posted slim gains -- ICBC added 0.6% and so did HSBC Holdings Plc. Hang Seng Bank gained 0.7%.

Esprit Holdings rose 2.4% while Li & Fung climbed 0.8%.

In Mumbai, IT services exporter Infosys plunged over 17% following forecast of lower revenue growth for this fiscal year.

Close-rival Wipro followed down 5.5% while TCS dropped a modest 2.6%.

In Sydney, Woodside Petroleum rose over 3% after the oil explorer said it has shelved a gas-export project estimated to cost over $40 billion.

Among other oil stocks, Santos eased 0.7% while Oil Search slipped 0.5%.

Miners were listless too -- BHP Billiton retreated 0.7% while Rio Tinto lost 2.8%.

But banks were on the positive turf, albeit with slim gains --ANZ added 0.4%, NAB climbed 0.3% while Commonwealth Bank inched up 0.1%.