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HONG KONG, Feb 8 AFP

February 08 2013, 8:09PM

Asian shares have mostly risen following a sell-off in the previous session, but Tokyo was hit by a stronger yen and data showing Japan suffered its lowest current account surplus in nearly 30 years.

Data showing China's trade surplus had risen more than expected provided extra buying support, adding to a recent trend of improvement in the the world's number two economy.

Tokyo dived 1.80 per cent, or 203.91 points, to 11,153.16 while Sydney gained 0.72 per cent, or 35.6 points, to 4,971.3 and Seoul closed up 0.99 per cent, or 19.13 points, to 1,950.90.

Hong Kong rose 0.16 per cent, or 38.16 points, to 23,215.16 and Shanghai added 0.57 per cent, or 13.87 points, to 2,432.40.

Japan's Nikkei suffered a sell-off for a second straight day on profit-taking - after surging 3.77 per cent to a four-and-half-year high on Wednesday - and a stronger yen, which had fallen to multi-month lows.

"The market is due for another pullback as it remains overheated and ripe for profit-taking, especially with the holiday-extended three-day weekend coming up," said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

"The 'energy' in the market remains very strong, however," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Data on Friday showed the surplus in Japan's current account, the broadest measure of Tokyo's dealings with the rest of the world, nearly halved to 4.7 trillion yen in 2012, the smallest since 1985.

The figures showed exports to China and Europe slumped, with December seeing a monthly deficit of 264.1 billion yen, from a year-earlier surplus of 265.7 billion yen.

Zhang Zhiwei, a Hong Kong-based economist with Nomura International, said in a research note: "These data suggest that external and domestic demand are both strong, which supports our view that the economy is on track for a cyclical recovery in the first half" of this year.

In afternoon forex trade the US dollar bought 92.37 yen, down from 93.61 yen in New York late on Thursday, while the euro was at 123.80 yen, from 125.40 yen.

The Japanese unit had been as low as 94.06 and 127.71 earlier this week on a combination of expectations of further Bank of Japan monetary easing as well as rising confidence in the global outlook.

Europe's single currency also bought $US1.3401 from $US1.3395, having touched $US1.3711 last week.

Dealers moved to sell the euro after the European Central Bank held interest rates at record lows.

China's General Administration of Customs said the country's trade surplus rose in January, thanks to an improvement in exports and imports.

The surplus rose 7.7 per cent year-on-year to $US29.2 billion, beating a median $US26.6 billion forecast of economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.

Customs also said exports surged 25.0 per cent to $US187.4 billion, while imports climbed 28.8 per cent to $US158.2 billion.

Later in the day the National Bureau of Statistics said inflation in January slowed to 2.0 per cent - in line with expectations - from a seven-month peak of 2.5 per cent in December.

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.30 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.18 per cent and the Nasdaq eased 0.11 per cent.

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, increasing 17 cents to $US96.00 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March gaining 39 cents to $US117.63.

Gold was at $US1,672.70 at 0830 GMT (1930 AEDT) compared with $US1,676.08 late on Thursday.

In other markets:

- Manila was flat, slipping 1.32 points to close at 6,458.67.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co added 0.27 per cent to 2,896 pesos and conglomerate Ayala Corp rose 0.35 per cent to 564.50 pesos.

- Wellington added 0.73 per cent, or 30.48 points, to 4,225.72.

Chorus surged 10.14 per cent to NZ$3.15 after government plans to regulate its prices were delayed, while Telecom Corp gained 1.95 per cent to NZ$2.35.

- Taipei was closed for a public holiday.