Most Asian stock markets went north before the close for the Christmas weekend.
HONG KONG: Asian stock markets rose on Friday as investors welcomed better-than-expected jobs data from the United States that suggest the economic recovery there is gaining traction.
But while the final trading day before the Christmas break was positive, there were still lingering concerns over the European debt crisis, which has roiled markets for most of the year.
Seoul closed 1.07 per cent, or 19.73 points, up at 1,867.22, while Sydney ended 1.21 per cent, or 49.6 points, higher at 4,140.4.
In the afternoon Hong Kong rose 1.02 per cent and Shanghai added 1.15 per cent. Tokyo and Wellington were closed for a public holiday.
The day got off to a bright start after the US Labor Department said on Thursday that new claims for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level since April 2008, with fewer layoffs in most states.
The figures beat economists' forecasts, with claims hitting 364,000 last week versus the consensus estimate of 380,000, representing a third straight weekly fall.
"Better US data has helped sentiment," said Stephen Halmarick, Sydney-based head of investment markets research at Colonial First State Global Asset Management.
However, the (European) debt crisis will clearly remain a key negative for markets early in the New Year, he told Dow Jones Newswires.
Europe's crisis has led to the fall of several governments this year while global markets have also been hammered amid concerns over a break-up of the eurozone and another deep, painful recession.
The European Central Bank's move this week to provide hundreds of billions of euros in cheap loans to under-pressure lenders was seen as a double-edged sword as it gave a lifeline but also exposed the region's massive fiscal problems.
The single European currency was at $1.3071, from $1.3051 late Thursday in New York, and at 102.06 yen from 102.01 yen.
The dollar was at 78.09 yen from 78.15 yen.
"The problem child in the yard is still Europe. This may remain until debt can be reined in and that will not be an overnight fix," Ben Le Brun, market analyst at optionsXpress said in a note.
"The backdoor quantitative easing from the (European Central Bank) is a definite step in the right direction if -- and it's a big if -- banks start supporting euro government bonds."
On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, gained 30 cents to $99.83 a barrel but Brent North Sea crude for February delivery lost four cents to $107.85.
Gold was trading at $1,610.00 an ounce at 0615 GMT, against $1,614.60 an ounce late Thursday.
In other markets:
* Taipei gained 2.07 per cent, or 144.38 points, to 7,110.73. Hon Hai rose 1.1 per cent to Tw$82.9 while TSMC was 0.53 per cent higher at Tw$75.4.
* Manila ended flat, edging 1.78 points higher to 4,372.24. BDO Unibank was up 0.2 per cent at 58.50 pesos, SM Investments added 2.2 per cent to 585.50 pesos and Semirara Mining Corp. was up 0.5 per cent at 220 pesos.