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Asian stocks were mostly higher on Friday as investors prepared to rule off on a solid first quarter of 2017 and Wall Street closed in on record highs.

South Africa’s rand was 1 per cent weaker in Asian trading in the wake of the nation’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, being dismissed on Thursday by President Jacob Zuma.
The currency has shed a cumulative 7.4 per cent so far this week and was on track for a fifth-straight day of declines.

The Shanghai Composite was up 0.2 per cent as the Chinese benchmark recovered from a four-day losing streak that sent it to a six-week low on Thursday. The tech-focused Shenzhen Composite was up 0.3 per cent. Although shares are not seen as particularly sensitive to economic data, some economy watchers are likely to have taken heart in an official survey showing activity in China’s manufacturing sector climbed to its highest level since 2012.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.3 per cent today.

Japan’s benchmark Topix was up 0.5 per cent with exporters taking heart from a 0.8 per cent drop in the yen on Thursday, it’s biggest one-day fall since the start of this month.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat, with banking stocks coming under pressure as the country’s prudential watchdog tightened mortgage lending rules for interest-only borrowers.

The S&P 500, which added 0.3 per cent on Thursday with US banking stocks rallying as December quarter GDP growth was revised higher to an annual pace of 2.1 per cent. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.3 per cent to a record high.

The Japanese yen was 0.2 per cent weaker at ¥‎112.09 per dollar, bringing losses over the past two sessions to 1 per cent. The currency sold off following data this morning showing headline inflation and industrial production grew more than expected in February, while the jobless rate fell to its lowest level since June 1994.

The dollar index, a measure of the US currency against a basket of global peers, was up 0.1 per cent at 100.54, with investors cheered overnight by an upward revision to US fourth quarter GDP. The greenback was eyeing its first four-day winning streak since mid-February.

Oil prices were cooling in Asia on Friday after solid gains over the previous two sessions. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down 0.3 per cent at $52.83 while West Texas Intermediate was down 0.3 per cent at $50.20.

Gold was down 0.1 per cent at $1,241.49 an ounce.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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