| GEO Business|
| Stronger dollar, profit-taking boost Asian shares|
| Updated at: 1614 PST, Friday, March 19, 2010|
HONG KONG: A bout of bargain-hunting and a stronger dollar boosted sentiment in Asia on Friday with stock markets higher during a quiet trading day.
The greenback was given a lift against the troubled euro in New York on Thursday as dealers ran for the safe haven unit after Athens warned it might go to the International Monetary Fund if European partners failed to help.
And concerns that China could raise interest rates were eased slightly after the country's central bank drained billions of dollars out of the financial system.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou urged the European Union to help a "family" member as the interest rate Athens pays to borrow money on the bond market shot up amid uncertainty over Europe's willingness to help.
And Germany, reluctant to bail out Greece, seemed to be happy to let it seek IMF help. Britain and Sweden had already backed the idea.
A Greek official told Dow Jones Newswires that Athens could go to the Washington-based lender as early as the April 2-4 Easter weekend.
In Asian trade the dollar stood at 90.45 yen, up from 90.39 Thursday in New York. The euro was at 1.3621 dollars and 123.20 yen, compared with 1.3603 dollars and 123.07 yen in New York.
Tokyo's Nikkei ended 0.75 percent, or 80.69 points, higher at 10,824.72.
"A slight appreciation in the yen during the morning session perhaps had a positive impact on exporters such as car makers and technology companies," Mizuho Securities Senior Strategist Tomochika Kitaoka said.
Crisis-hit Toyota rose 1.98 percent to 3,600 yen as the world's largest automaker continues its bid to repair its reputation after a global recall.
Nissan, which announced it would build its zero-emission Leaf electric car at a plant in Britain, closed flat at 766.
Sydney closed 0.19 percent, or 9.1 points, higher at 4,872.2.
Miner BHP Billiton added 0.09 percent to 43.20 dollars (39.85 US) but Rio Tinto slipped 1.04 percent to 76.19 dollars after announcing a 1.35-billion-US -dollar deal to develop a huge African iron ore field with China's Chinalco.
Hong Kong also gained 0.19 percent, or 40.15 points, to end at 21,370.82, Shanghai closed 0.71 percent higher, adding 21.66 points to 3,067.75 after the Rio-Chinalco deal was announced.
Sentiment was also helped by easing concerns over an imminent rate hike faded after the central bank said Thursday it took a massive 213 billion yuan (31.2 billion dollars) from the financial system this week to tighten liquidity.
The move marked the largest weekly amount of money taken out in two years, analysts said.
"Overall, market sentiment has improved somewhat in recent sessions, as concerns over imminent monetary and credit tightening faded a little," Li Xianming, an analyst at Ping An Securities, said.
Regional dealers were making the most of broad losses on Thursday although they had been given a cue from Wall Street, where the Dow rose 0.42 percent, its eighth straight gain.
US stocks were pushed up on welcome consumer prices and jobs data showing the economy continued to slowly pick up.
The Labor Department said weekly initial unemployment insurance claims were at five-week lows while the consumer price index was unchanged in February from a 0.2 percent rise the previous month.
The prices news meant there was little threat that the Federal Reserve would have to deal with ultra-low interest rates any time soon.
Oil was lower, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, falling 33 cents to 81.87 dollars a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for May eased 18 cents to 81.30 dollars.
Gold closed higher at 1,124.00-1,125.00 US dollars an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Thursday's close of 1,119.00-1,120.00 US dollars an ounce.
In other markets:
-- Singapore was flat, ending 1.76 points higher at 2,915.70.
Property developer CapitaLand was 0.49 percent lower at 4.04 Singapore dollars, DBS Group Holdings dropped 3.15 percent to 14.12 Singapore dollars and Singapore Airlines fell 1.03 percent to 15.44 Singapore dollars.
-- Seoul closed 0.65 percent, or 10.94 points, higher at 1,686.11.
-- Taipei rose 0.15 percent, or 11.57 points, to close at 7,897.91.
"After significant gains seen earlier this week, many investors have turned reluctant to chase prices amid fears of strong resistance ahead of the key 8,000 points level," President Securities analyst Vickie Hsieh said.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co fell 0.66 percent to 60.00 Taiwan dollars and Yuanta Financial lost 0.49 percent to 20.20.
-- Jakarta gained 0.21 percent, or 5.73 points, to 2,742.97.
Gas company Perusahaan Gas Negara jumped 3.7 percent to 4,225 rupiah, while food products maker Indofood rose 1.8 percent to 4,150 rupiah.
-- Kuala Lumpur lost 0.41 percent, or 5.34 points, to close at 1,296.60.
Top bank Maybank was down 0.80 percent to 7.24 ringgit, while plantation giants IOI and Sime Darby both lost 1.10 percent to 5.36 and 8.44 respectively.
-- Manila fell 0.12 percent, or 3.72 points, to 3,097.23.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone declined 1.2 percent to 2,550 pesos while Ayala Land shed 2.2 percent to 11.50.
-- Wellington closed 0.30 percent, or 9.72 points, higher at 3,230.40.
Sky City ended up 0.9 percent at 3.42 New Zealand dollars but Telecom fell four cents to 2.11 dollars.
-- Bangkok rose 2.05 percent, or 15.57 points, to close at 774.59.
Coal producer Banpu rose 6 baht to 620 baht, and Bangkok Bank gained 4.50 baht to 131 baht.
-- Mumbai rose 0.34 percent, or 58.97 points, to end at 17,578.23.
India's largest mobile phone maker Bharti Airtel rose 3.95 percent 311.85 rupees.