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Asia shares steady, markets await U.S. jobs data for Fed clues

A businessman is reflected in an electronic board displaying Japan's Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 2016.

Asian shares held steady on Friday as investors braced for U.S. payrolls data that could add to or detract from the case for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike later this month or in July.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 0.15 percent while Japan's Nikkei .N225 rose 0.6 percent.

Markets expect U.S. employment data due at 1230 GMT to show a non-farm payroll increase of about 164,000 and 0.2 percent rise in average wage earnings in May. [ECONUS]

The data will be followed by a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Monday, the last chance for the Fed to communicate with markets before it begins a blackout period ahead of its policy meeting on June 14-15.

"If we see a job figure that is largely in line with market consensus and if Yellen maintains a positive tone on rate hikes, I think the chances of a rate hike in June is pretty high," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at...