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Asian markets lifted by China data, Wall St rally

Asian markets mostly rose on Thursday, with support coming from another positive lead from Wall Street and news that Chinese manufacturing activity had hit a two-year high in January.

However, regional tech firms were weighed by disappointing earnings from Apple, and Tokyo and Seoul were dented by more downbeat economic data.

Tokyo rose 0.36 percent by the break, Hong Kong added 0.15 percent, Shanghai surged 1.01 percent and Sydney climbed 0.40 percent, while Seoul was flat.

In China HSBC said its preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 51.9 in January from 51.5 in December, a 24-month high.

Anything above 50 indicates growth while anything below is contraction.

The news reinforces views that the world's number two economy has picked up after a drawn-out slumber. On Friday official figures showed it grew at a faster pace than expected in 2012 and at a quicker pace than the government had hoped.

The results provided a fillip to Japan's Nikkei, although the market continues to be weighed by a stronger yen as well as data showing the country logged a second consecutive annual trade deficit last year.

However, Thursday saw an easing of the yen's recent rally that was sparked by disappointment that the Bank of Japan's unveiling of a two percent inflation target and indefinite monetary easing did not go far enough.

In early currency deals the greenback bought 88.84 yen, compared with 88.56 yen in New York late Wednesday. The dollar had surged to a two-and-a-half-year high 90.24 yen before the BoJ move.

The euro slipped to 118.36 yen from 118.00, and to $1.3321 from $1.3315.

The three main indexes on Wall Street ended higher after a string of upbeat earnings from firms including IBM and Google.

The Dow ended up 0.49 percent, at its highest level since October 2007, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.15 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 0.33 percent.

However, after US markets closed Apple released flat October-December first quarter earnings and sales of key products such as the iPhone 5 came in below expectations.

Recently, the iPhone 5 made a lacklustre debut in China and an analyst reported that Apple had cut orders for smartphone parts.

Wednesday's results sent shares in the computer giant slumping more than 10 percent in after-hours trade, which had a knock-on effect for Asian firms linked to it.

Supplier LG Display fell 2.4 percent in Seoul, while in Tokyo TDK lost 1.4 percent and telecoms firm Softbank, which sells the iPhone, dropped 1.5 percent.

South Korean shares were also hurt by data showing the economy grew 2.0 percent in 2012, its slowest pace in three years, owing to overseas turmoil and soft demand at home.

Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March gained four cents to $95.27 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for March delivery dropped 39 cents to $112.41.

Gold was at $1,683.58 at 0240 GMT compared with $1,691.66 late Wednesday.