Asian markets higher in Thursday trade

Man smiling at Nikkei Image copyright Getty Images

Asian stock markets held on to gains in Thursday trading, following the positive trend from US and European markets.

South Korea has returned from a public holiday. At the end of the session, the Kospi index closed up 1.75% at 2,015.93.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index ended the Thursday session higher by 3.2% at 16,911.05.

That is the highest closing level for the index this month.

The Japanese currency has steadily weakened to a one-week low against the US dollar.

Overnight, the yen was at 109.21 against the US dollar, after trading at about 107 earlier in the week.

A weaker Japanese currency would be welcomed by many Japanese exporters, as that would make their goods cheaper and more competitive overseas.

Shares in electronics giant Panasonic closed up by 4.1%. Shares of car manufacturer Toyota gained 3.25%, while its rival Nissan saw a 2.5% gain at the close of trade.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index added 0.89% or 187.71 points to 21,346.42.

On the mainland in China, the Shanghai Composite index edged up 0.06% to 3,068.58.

Australia jobs

In Australia, the benchmark S&P ASX 200 closed up 1.3% - or 63.95 points - at 5,118.6, rounding off three days of gains.

Mining stocks led the rally in Australian markets, following a jump in iron ore prices. Shares of BHP Billiton surged by 5.3% at the close, while shares of rival Rio Tinto were up by 2.5%.

Data from Australia showed the economy added 26,100 jobs in March. That led to a dip in the unemployment rate to 5.7% - the lowest rate since September 2013. In February, the unemployment rate was at 5.8%.

The latest data could ease pressure on the Australian central bank to lower interest rates further, to help spur economic growth.

The central bank's key lending rate is currently at a record low of 2%. The last rate cut was in May 2015.

US markets closed positive overnight, led by gains in shares of financial institutions.

JPMorgan shares surged by more than 4% after it reported a quarterly profit that beat market expectations for the three months to March. JPMorgan is the biggest US bank by assets.

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