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HONG KONG, Nov 22 AFP

November 22 2012, 7:44PM

Asian markets mostly climbed on Thursday as Chinese manufacturing data indicated the economy continues to pick up, while the euro extended its gains on hopes a deal on Greece's bailout will be agreed.

Japanese shares closed at a six-month high as the yen weakened further against the dollar and euro on expectations the country's central bank will unveil fresh monetary easing measures.

Tokyo soared 1.56 per cent, or 144.28 points, to 9,366.80 to finish at their highest level since early May.

Traders have been selling the Japanese unit since Shinzo Abe, the country's opposition leader and the man likely to become prime minister after next month's election, said he would press for unlimited monetary easing to lift the economy.

Expectations have been boosted this week by the central bank's downcast outlook for near-term growth and the worst October trade figures for 30 years.

Seoul rose 0.82 per cent, or 15.46 points, to 1,899.50 while Sydney climbed 1.00 per cent, or 43.6 points, to finish at 4,431.1.

Hong Kong closed 1.02 per cent higher, adding 218.84 points to end at 21,743.20 but Shanghai fell 0.72 per cent, or 14.71 points, to 2,015.61.

The loss in China was despite banking giant HSBC saying the country's manufacturing activity grew for the first time in more than a year in November, reinforcing recent views that the economy is beginning to pick up after several months of slowdown.

The bank's purchasing managers' index (PMI) stood at 50.4 this month, compared with 49.5 in October. Anything above 50 points to growth and anything below indicates contraction.

It is the first reading above 50 since October 2011 and adds to a slew of upbeat trade, investment and sales figures released this month and last that have fuelled optimism.

"This confirms that the economic recovery continues to gain momentum towards the year end," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's chief economist for China, said in the bank's release.

"An improvement in economic data doesn't necessarily mean a commensurate improvement in corporate earnings," Capital Securities analyst Jacky Zhang told Dow Jones Newswires.

In forex trade the dollar bought 82.54 yen from 82.51 yen late Wednesday in New York, while the euro was at 105.97 yen from 105.84 yen. The euro also fetched $1.2840, from $1.2826.

Despite the failure of eurozone finance ministers to agree on the release of the next tranche of bailout money for Greece, there is confidence a deal will be struck when they meet for a third time in as many weeks on Monday.

The euro remains well-bought despite Wednesday's disappointing news on Greece's cash, while traders also brushed off Moody's decision to downgrade France's credit rating.

Asian markets were given a positive lead from Wall Street, which was lifted by news of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, ending eight days of bloody fighting, while jobs claims fell again last week.

The Dow rose 0.38 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.23 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.34 per cent.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January added 19 cents to $87.57 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January fell eight cents to $110.71.

Gold was at $1,728.90 at 0810 GMT compared with $1,726.55 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.24 per cent, or 17.27 points, to 7,105.76.

Chip giant TSMC was 0.88 per cent higher at Tw$91.3 while smartphone maker HTC fell 2.07 per cent to Tw$236.5.

-- Manila was 0.38 per cent, or 20.81 points, lower at 5,513.37.

Top-traded Philippine National Bank dropped 3.03 per cent to 81.55 pesos while Ayala Land fell 0.65 per cent to 23.10 pesos.

-- Wellington closed 0.65 per cent up, adding 25.98 points, to 3,997.21.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare added 2.1 per cent to NZ$2.49, Chorus climbed 1.6 per cent to NZ$3.25 and Fletcher Building was 1.5 per cent higher at NZ$7.84.

By Danny McCord