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Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, Mar 13 (Reuters) Asian stocks rose on Monday, with the Nikkei at its highest in more than a month, as strong U.S. jobs data buoyed hopes that consumers there would buy more Asian goods, and oil stayed around $60 after dropping 6 percent last week.

Gold jumped more than $4 after dropping to a two-month low on Friday when the dollar surged on stronger-than-expected U.S. payroll numbers.

Japanese government bond (JGB) yields rose to their highest in more than five years as a hawkish Bank of Japan policy board member fuelled talk of a rate rise.

Financial bookmakers in London called the FTSE 100 up about 4 points from its near-five-year high on Friday, with Europe's focus on German drugs firm Merck after rival Schering said an $18 billion cash offer at the weekend significantly undervalued it.

Also, London Stock Exchange Plc. shares were expected to rise after U.S. exchange Nasdaq said it may offer LSE investors a partial share alternative to its $4.2 billion cash bid, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The Nikkei share average closed up 1.5 percent at 16,361.51, its best close since Feb. 9 and extending last week's 2.9 percent gain.

The broader TOPIX index was up 1.7 percent.

Shares in brokers such as Nomura Holdings, up 2.6 percent, were among the gainers amid a general feelgood mood after the BOJ's exit from its five-year-old ultra-easy credit policy.

Domestic plays such as property firms and railway operators also fared well.

Wall Street's near-1 percent rise on Friday and the technology-heavy Nasdaq's 0.55 percent gain, its first in seven sessions, helped boost shares in exporters such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., up 1.9 percent, and Honda Motor Co. Ltd., up 1.4 percent.

U.S. DATA The dollar changed hands at 118.82 yen near a one-month high after Friday's U.S. data -- showing non-farm payrolls rose 243,000 last month -- bolstered expectations that the Federal Reserve would boost interest rates to at least 5 percent this year.

''The U.S. jobs data was quite positive. It shows that U.S.

consumers could continue to spend, and that's key for exporters,'' said Kim Jeong-hwan, strategist at Woori Investment and Securities.

The euro was up slightly at $1.1940 and bought 141.90 yen just off an earlier one-month high.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) added 1.4 percent, while a broader index of Asian stocks outside Japan advanced 1.1 percent, its third day of gains after losing 2.2 percent in the four previous sessions.

Shares in POSCO, the world's fifth-largest steel maker, gained 3.4 percent, but were off an earlier record high amid growing earnings optimism.

Traders said more U.S. economic data this week, including the February consumer price index due on Thursday, could boost the market view that the Fed would raise its funds rate -- now at 4.5 percent -- by 25 basis points this month and again in May, and possibly once more before the year-end.

U.S. crude for April delivery edged up 21 cents to $60.17 a barrel after dropping 6 percent last week, as U.S. crude stocks hit seven-year highs and OPEC decided to carry on pumping at a near maximum. Simmering tensions between the West and Iran and an ongoing outage in exports from Nigeria turned around earlier losses.

The U.N. Security Council is this week expected to discuss Iran's nuclear programme, urging an end to uranium enrichment, but stopping well short of sanctions that dealers fear could prompt Tehran to use oil supply as a political weapon.

Shares in Australia's largest retailer, Coles Myer Ltd., jumped 5.2 percent after it said it would sell its Myer department store chain to a private equity-led consortium for A$1.4 billion ($1 billion).

The two-year JGB yield rose 4.5 basis points to 0.515 percent, just off an earlier five-year high, and the benchmark 10-year cash bond yield gained 3.5 bps to 1.690 percent, matching a 1-1/2-year high hit earlier this month.

''The BOJ seems to think zero interest rates are just a transitional phase before they normalise interest rates,'' said Naomi Hasegawa, senior strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

Spot gold rose to $543.95 an ounce after its fall to as low as $533.60 in the U.S. on Friday triggered technical buying as well as enticing jewellers back into the market.


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