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.

Apr. 14, 2016 on BBC News

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