Chinese shares jump on more stimulus hopes

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Chinese shares led the region's gains on Thursday as investors bet on more stimulus measures by the government after disappointing bank loan data.

Chinese banks had issued far less credit in December than expected despite a surprise interest rate cut by the central bank in November.

The Shanghai Composite closed up 3.5% at 3,336.45 - its biggest daily increase since 5 January.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index ended up 1% at 24,350.91.

Shares in Japan posted their biggest daily gain in four weeks as the yen fell against the dollar.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 closed up 1.9% at 17,108.70. The dollar rose to 117.72 yen, recovering from 116.07 yen.

A weaker yen is good for big Japanese companies with overseas operations as it makes their goods more affordable for consumers.

The upward trend in Japan and China came despite a fall in US stocks on Wednesday as investors reacted to a fall in US retail sales and disappointing company results.

Australia jobs

An official report showing Japan's core machinery orders rose by less than expected in November also did little to deter investors.

The orders, which are an indication of how much some companies will be spending in the coming months, rose 1.3% from the previous month. Economists had forecast a 5% rise.

Australian shares ended the day in negative territory with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.42% at 5,331.37.

However, Australia's dollar rose nearly 1% after data showed the nation's jobless rate was lower than economists had forecast.

The official numbers out on Thursday showed Australia's economy had created 37,400 jobs in December, versus estimates of about 3,800 jobs.

In South Korea, the benchmark Kospi index edged up 0.03% to 1,914.14.

The country's central bank said on Thursday it would keep its benchmark interest rate on hold - a move that was widely expected.

A report that Korean smartphone giant Samsung had offered to buy struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry for as much as $7.5bn (£4.92bn) saw the Canadian firm's shares record their biggest gains in a decade. However, both Samsung and Blackberry denied the report.

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