Asian stocks rose on Monday after data showed U.S. employers created jobs last month at the fastest pace in three years, boosting hopes of a sustained economic recovery.

U.S. S&P 500 stock index futures <.SPc1> rose 0.4 percent in the Asian day after the job report, topping an intraday peak in an abbreviated futures session on Friday.

Most cash markets in the U.S. and Europe were closed for the Good Friday holiday when the jobs data was released.

But trading in Asia was lighter than usual, with markets in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and New Zealand closed for holidays. European markets will remain closed on Monday but U.S. markets will reopen for business.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose 162,000 in March, the largest since March 2007, and only the third time payrolls have increased since the recession hit in late 2007, the strongest signal yet that its economic recovery is on solid footing and needs less government help.

The unemployment rate, however, held steady at 9.7 percent for a third straight month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Economists had expected nonfarm payrolls to rise 190,000 last month, but they said a solid rise in private-sector hiring gave the report a stronger-than-expected tone.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei average <.N225> closed up 0.47 percent at 11,339.30, after climbing as high as 11,408.17, a fresh 18-month peak, as automakers such as Honda Motor <7267.T> and Toyota Motor <7203.T> continued to rise following a jump in U.S. auto sales in March.

The Nikkei also drew support from the yen's fall last week to a seven-month low against the dollar.

A fall in the yen can help Japanese exporters as it makes their products more competitive and can increase their overseas profits when repatriated back home.

The dollar later eased against the yen with traders pocketing profits after the greenback vaulted to its highest in more than seven months earlier in the day.

In holiday-thinned early Asian trade, the dollar rose to near the 95 yen mark, adding to a 2.8 percent climb last week, after the generally upbeat jobs data.

The Nikkei 225's relative strength index is now reading 76. Numbers above 70 indicate a market has been overbought.

Nagayuki Yamagishi, investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, played down worries that the Nikkei's rally was looking overstretched.

As long as it rises along with gains in the five-day moving average, an extreme sense of overheating is unlikely to emerge, said Yamagishi.

The MSCI's broad measure of shares in the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan edged up 0.31 percent <.MIAPJ0000PUS>.

Indonesian stocks <.JKSE> rose more than 1 percent to a record high of 2,882.99, taking its gains to over 13 percent so far this year as foreign investors snap up Indonesian stocks and bonds on strong economic growth prospects.


The dollar started stronger in Asia on the jobs number before profit taking erased the day's gains. Markets had been betting on a solid jobs number for much of last week.

The dollar eased against a basket of major currencies <.DXY> but edged up to near the 95 yen mark, adding to a 2.8 percent climb last week.

The yen was under broad selling pressure with the euro hitting a 10-week high and the Australian dollar striking an 18-month peak in holiday-thinned early Asia trade.

Traders said climbs in long-term Treasuries yields after the jobs report, with the benchmark 10-year yield rising to a 9-month high near 4 percent, also boosted the dollar's yield appeal compared to the low-yielding yen.

Some economists said relatively strong details of the nonfarm payroll report suggested the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates as early as late this year, which would further increase the yield appeal of the dollar. The central bank had slashed them to near zero during the global financial crisis to spur growth.

A solid rise in private-sector hiring also led some traders to believe the Fed may raise its discount rate again at a meeting later on Monday, but most analysts doubted it would make such a move so quickly.

The Fed surprised markets on Feb 18 when it hiked the discount rate, the emergency rate at which it lends to banks, by a quarter point to 0.75 percent.

U.S. crude futures jumped 1 percent toward $86 a barrel, to their highest since October 2008, after the jobs data.

Dollar/yuan NDFs eased after U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said a report on whether China manipulates its currency will be delayed ahead of a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Market players believe easing Sino-U.S. tensions raise the chances of a Chinese policy shift to allow the yuan rise gradually. One-year NDFs fall as low as 6.633 from 6.645 late on Friday.

Spot yuan markets are closed for holiday.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)