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Asian Shares Gain On Growth Optimism

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Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Monday, with new record closing highs on Wall Street Friday, higher commodity prices and optimism over corporate earnings helping underpin investor sentiment.

Chinese shares fell on profit taking, ending an 11-sesssion winning streak after central bank data showed China's bank lending declined in December on measures taken by the government to curb credit growth.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index dropped 18.45 points or 0.54 percent to 3,410.49 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was marginally lower at 31,384 in late trade.

Japanese shares rose even as the dollar weakened against most major currencies, including the yen. The Nikkei average rose 61.06 points or 0.26 percent to 23,714.88 while the broader Topix index closed 0.41 percent higher at 1,883.90.

SoftBank Group shares jumped 3.2 percent after the company said it was considering listing its mobile arm to raise around 2 trillion yen ($18 billion).

In its quarterly Regional Economic Report released today, the Bank of Japan raised its economic view of three out of nine regions from its previous assessment in October.

Australian shares closed marginally higher as strong gains in the mining sector outweighed weakness in the energy sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 7 points or 0.12 percent to 6,077.10, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended 10.90 points or 0.18 percent higher at 6,187.70.

A jump in zinc and iron ore prices helped lift miners, with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and South32 climbing 1-3 percent.

Gold miners Newcrest, Regis Resources, Northern Star and Evolution jumped 3-7 percent as the yellow metal hit a four-month high on dollar weakness.

Banks ended mixed while energy majors Oil Search, Santos and Origin Energy fell 1-3 percent. Vocus Group advanced 0.9 percent on restructuring news.

Seoul shares rose as both institutional and foreign investors lapped up large-cap shares after record closing highs on Wall Street Friday. The benchmark Kospi gained 7.31 points or 0.29 percent to finish at 2.503.73.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 0.7 percent while SK Hynix and LG Electronics ended down over 2 percent each.

New Zealand shares fell modestly in light trading amid a lack of triggers. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended down 30.98 points or 0.38 percent at
8,211.37, with Fonterra Shareholders Fund and Pushpay Holdings losing 2-3 percent.

New Zealand's food prices declined for the fourth straight month in December, figures from Statistics New Zealand showed today. Food prices dropped 0.8 percent month-over-month in December, faster than the 0.4 percent fall in November.

India's Sensex was rising 0.7 percent to reach a fresh record high after a government report showed India's industrial production in November grew at a pace nearly double than the rate economists had expected, helping ease growth worries.

Benchmark indexes in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent while Indonesian shares were marginally lower.

U.S. stocks closed at fresh record highs on Friday as investors digested encouraging retail sales and inflation data as well as better-than-expected quarterly results from financial giants JPMorgan Chase (JPM), BlackRock (BLK) and Wells Fargo.

The Dow climbed 0.9 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the S&P 500 rose about 0.7 percent each.

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