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Asian stocks up as investors await US job numbers

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KELVIN CHAN | February 5, 2014 10:43 PM EST | AP

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HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks rose modestly on Thursday as markets stabilized further after sharp losses earlier in the week and investors held steady ahead of key policy meetings in Europe and a major U.S. job report.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.3 percent to 14,222.67 despite the yen strengthening, which makes goods from the country's export giants pricier overseas.

South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.9 percent to 1,907.76 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.7 percent to 21,415.84.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.1 percent to 5,125.30 and the Australian dollar rose after the government reported a surprise trade surplus in December. Economists had been expecting a deficit.

Markets in China remained closed until Friday because of a holiday.

Asian stocks rose even though Wall Street had a lackluster session after a survey by payrolls processor ADP found businesses added 175,000 jobs last month, slightly lower than economists expected. The Dow, Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq all ended fractionally lower.

Investors are holding tight ahead of interest rate policy meetings by the European Central Bank and Bank of England later Thursday and a U.S. report on non-farm payrolls for January on Friday.

"Range trading is likely to dominate" before those events, said Mitul Kotecha, Asian head of global markets research for Credit Agricole CIB.

While no change in policy is expected from the bank meetings, the results of the U.S. job report will provide an important clue to the state of the world's largest economy. That in turn will guide policymakers at the U.S. Federal Reserve, who have been scaling back stimulus that has helped fuel gains in world markets.

In currencies, the dollar weakened to 101.41 Japanese yen from 101.54 in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.3534 from $1.3540.

Benchmark crude oil for March delivery rose 18 cents to $97.56 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 19 cents to close at $97.38 Wednesday.