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Asian markets mostly up, yen sinks further

Asian markets were mixed on Friday, with Tokyo boosted by further weakness in the yen, while official data indicated Chinese manufacturing activity grew further in January but had moderated.

The yen hit a two-and-a-half-year low against the dollar in forex trade with dealers upbeat ahead of the release later in the day of jobs data, while a bright eurozone confidence survey sent the euro higher.

Tokyo was up 0.47 percent, or 52.68 points, at 11,191.34 and Sydney climbed 0.87 percent, or 42.3 points, to 4,921.0 but Seoul eased 0.21 percent, or 4.15 points, to 1,957.79.

Shanghai surged 1.41 percent, or 33.60 points, to 2,419.02 while Hong Kong was flat, dipping 7.69 points to 22,721.84

Beijing released official figures Friday showing manufacturing activity had seen a slip last month. The purchasing managers index (PMI) came in at 50.4, down from December's 50.6 and below the 51.0 forecast by economists.

A score above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing activity.

The data represents the first halt to a recent rise in activity that has fuelled hopes the world's number two economy has emerged from the slumber it endured through most of 2012.

However, a separate figure by banking giant HSBC, which looks at smaller firms, showed the PMI at a more than two-year high of 52.3, up from 51.5 in December.

Even so, analysts said it was unlikely to distress investors significantly as the figure is usually distorted around the Chinese New Year holiday, which falls on February 10 this year, as business flows turn down.

"We believe the Chinese economy and its related asset markets will remain in a sweet spot in the near term," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Lu Ting and Hu Weijun in a research note.

And Tang Yonggang, an analyst at Hongyuan Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires: "The (official) PMI reading was lower than expectations, though it wasn't too low, so the trend of expansion in manufacturing stays somewhat intact."

China will release crucial trade and inflation figures next week.

Japanese shares enjoyed further advances as investors continued to sell the yen after the Bank of Japan said it would carry out open-ended monetary easing and introduce a two percent inflation target.

In the afternoon the dollar bought 92.16 yen up from 91.70 yen in New York late Thursday and near its highest level since mid-2010.

The euro also surged to 125.91 yen -- also a high not seen since the middle of 2010 -- from 124.52 yen. The single currency also bought $1.3660, up from $1.3576.

The euro continued to get a boost after the European Commission's eurozone confidence index rose for a third straight month as concerns over sovereign debts and a banking crisis ease significantly.

Wall Street provided a weak lead as investors look ahead to the release late Friday of non-farm payroll figures for a fresh clue to the state of the economy, days after data showed a surprise 0.1 percent contraction in the three months to December.

The Dow fell 0.36 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.26 percent and the Nasdaq was flat.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, rose two cents to $97.51 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery rose 13 cents to $115.68.

Gold was at $1,665.35 at 1050 GMT compared with $1,674.65 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore closed up 0.26 percent, or 8.48 points to 3,291.14.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp gained 0.41 percent to Sg$9.82, while Fraser and Neave shed 1.26 percent to Sg$9.43.

-- Taipei was flat, edging up 5.95 points to 7,855.97.

HTC fell 0.51 percent to Tw$290.0, while Hon Hai Precision rose 0.24 percent to Tw$84.6.

-- Manila closed 1.22 percent higher, adding 75.87 points to 6,318.61.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust rose 0.76 percent to 106.20 pesos, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone ended 1.22 percent up at 2,820 pesos.

-- Wellington fell 6.71 0.16 percent, or 0.16 percent, to 4,245.93.

Contact Energy was down 0.38 percent at NZ$5.20, Fletcher Building slipped 1.26 percent to NZ$9.40 and Telecom gained 0.21 percent to NZ$2.43.

-- Jakarta ended up 27.93 points, at 0.63 percent, at 4,481.63.

Indosat rose 5.88 percent to 7,200 rupiah and Bank Negara Indonesia rose 8.28 percent to 4,250 rupiah. Indofood Sukses Makmur slid 1.65 percent to 5,950 rupiah.

-- Bangkok rose 1.70 percent or 25.02 points to 1,499.22.

Banpu added 0.52 percent or 2.00 baht to 390.00 baht, while PTT Plc jumped 3.81 percent or 13.00 baht to 354.00 baht

-- Mumbai fell 0.57 percent or 113.79 points to 19,781.19 points.

Tata Motors fell 4.36 percent to 285.0 rupees, while DLF fell 3.55 percent to 267.95 rupees.

-- Kuala Lumpur was closed for a public holiday.