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Asian shares, especially Tokyo, up on US rally

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo shares, the main exchange in Asia, perked upward Friday in early trading, boosted by a rally overnight on Wall Street to a record high.

The Nikkei average, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, gained 0.6 percent in early trading to 15,442.23.

Adding to the regional optimism were U.S. jobs data released earlier in the week that have sent the U.S. dollar higher — good news for the giant exporters of Japan Inc.

The dollar was, however, trading little changed in Tokyo early Friday from the previous day at 102.17 yen. The euro was also little changed, at $1.3608 compared to $1.3609 late Thursday.

Still, a strong U.S. economy is a boon for Japan's exporting companies. Their stocks were up in early trading, including Toyota Motor Corp. adding 0.5 percent, and Daikin Industries gaining nearly 1 percent.

U.S. markets are closed Friday for the Fourth of July holiday. U.S. stock trading will reopen Monday.

The Kospi in South Korea was little changed in the first hour of trading, at 2,012.11, up 0.06 percent.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average topped 17,000 for the first time — another in a string of records for the index that has lifted portfolios in a five-year bull market for stocks.

The gain pushed the 118-year-old Dow, the oldest gauge for tracking stock prices, past its first 1,000-point milestone this year.

The record came after another day of good news for the economy: The government reported surprisingly robust job gains in June, underscoring a recent trend of stronger hiring and healthy manufacturing.

The Dow's rise this year has been built on tiny gains, barely noticeable day by day, a stark contrast to last year's bigger moves that drove the index up 27 percent. Thursday followed the recent script. The index rose from the start of trading, but ended the day just half of percentage point higher. Trading was also extremely light. The market closed early ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

Investors also pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index within striking range of its round-number milestone — just 15 points from 2,000.

On Thursday, the government reported that U.S. employers added 288,000 workers to their payrolls in June and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent. The U.S. economy is now creating about 231,000 jobs each month in 2014, compared to roughly 194,000 a month last year.

The U.S. jobs report is the latest piece of data to show the economy continues to improve steadily. Also helping stocks are solid corporate earnings and continued support from central banks. That has pushed prices higher despite a harsh U.S. winter and worries about fighting in Ukraine and Iraq.

The Dow rose 92.02 points to finish at 17,068.26. The S&P 500 closed up 10.82 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,985.44 and the Nasdaq composite gained 28.19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,485.93.

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