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Asian stocks mixed after US growth slowdown

BEIJING/HONG KONG -- Investors were encouraged by the U.S. Federal Reserve's pledge Wednesday following a policy meeting to keep short-term interest rates low to support the economy “for a considerable time” after its bond purchases end, likely late this year.

“The accommodative stance is certainly going to maintain the current upswings in consumer sentiment and spending,” said Evan Lucas of IG Markets in a report.

In a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy, the Fed said it would go ahead with plans to reduce bond purchases by US$10 billion this month. Such purchases were aimed at encouraging investment by pushing down long-term interest rates and have helped to buoy stock markets.

U.S. government data showed economic growth slowed to a 0.1 percent annualized rate in the January-March period from 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

That was the weakest growth since late 2012 and was largely put down to the winter storms that hit North America during the period. But it disappointed economists who expected a more modest slowdown to 1.1 percent.

A hiring survey by the ADP payrolls processor said the U.S. economy added 220,000 jobs in April, up from 209,000 in March and the most since November. Official government figures are due Friday.

On Thursday, Britain's FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX each added 0.2 percent while France's CAC-40 dropped 0.2 percent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 both edged up 0.1 percent.

Asian shares were mixed on Thursday as most markets stayed shut for public holidays. The Nikkei closed 1.27 percent higher, adding 181.02 points to 14,485.13, with some strong corporate earnings and healthy manufacturing data from China adding to the upbeat mood.

Sydney lost 0.73 percent, or 40.27 points, to finish at 5,448.8 despite a solid earnings report from ANZ bank, which said first half net profit was up 15 percent.

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