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Tokyo stocks, euro up in holiday-hit trade

TOKYO – Japanese shares rose in quiet regional trade on Friday while the euro enjoyed a pick-up as concerns over Cyprus eased after the island’s bank’s reopened to relative calm.

Lenders in the Mediterranean nation began trading Thursday for the first time since a controversial bailout was agreed, with the first capital controls of their kind in the eurozone blocking a bank run that analysts feared could ripple across region.

Investors were also eyeing tensions on the Korean peninsula, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered preparations for strategic strikes on the US mainland and military bases after US stealth bombers flew training runs over South Korea.

In the afternoon Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index was 0.42 percent higher, while the market is up almost 20 percent since the start of the year.

“There is no direction or momentum to trading today, as most players are satisfied with the last three months of gains, and see few reasons to take a last-day risk with so many participants missing,” said Kenichi Hirano, a market analyst at Tachibana Securities.

Markets in Hong Kong, Sydney, Wellington, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila and Mumbai were closed for the Easter holidays.

In other markets Seoul gained 0.67 percent, while Taipei was up 0.29 percent and Shanghai lost 0.14 percent.

In forex trade, the euro edged up to $1.2830 from $1.2814 in New York late Thursday, while it bought 120.67 yen from 120.64 yen — with some support coming from upbeat German retail sales data.

The single currency has been on a downward roll as traders fret about the situation in Cyprus, which this week agreed a rescue plan with its creditors that includes a levy on bank deposits over 100,000 euros.

There had been fears ahead of the reopening of the country’s banks that savers would rush to take out as much money as they could — and lead to a knock-on effect in other troubled economies.

Eventually there was little panic, soothing market jitters slightly.

However, the euro’s rebound was limited as analysts said the Cyprus crisis was still not over, while Italian politicians struggle to produce a governing coalition more than a month after elections despite the economy being in dire straits.

The dollar weakened to 94.11 yen, from 94.12 yen, ahead of a Bank of Japan meeting next week that is expected to see the launch of more aggressive easing by the central bank.

Traders will also have an eye on meetings of the European Central Bank and Bank of England.

Wall Street provided a healthy lead, with the S&P 500 hitting a record high thanks to growing confidence in the US economy, while the Dow, hit yet another all-time high itself.

Market watchers credited steadily improving US data, solid corporate earnings and continued high liquidity from the Federal Reserve’s stimulus measures.

Gold was at $1,596.00 an ounce at 0400 GMT compared with $1,602.29 late on Thursday.

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