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Asian Shares Rise In Thin Holiday Trade

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Asian stocks closed broadly higher in thin holiday trade on Monday after the
S&P 500 extended its winning streak to six days. Trading volumes remained thin across the region as markets in China and Hong Kong remained shut due to the Lunar New Year holiday.

Japanese shares rallied, with a weaker yen, firmer lead from Wall Street and encouraging trade data helping support underlying sentiment.

Japan posted a merchandise trade deficit of 943.417 billion yen in January, the Ministry of Finance said - an improvement of 13.6 percent from a year earlier. That exceeded forecasts for a shortfall of 1,003.6 billion yen following the 358.7 billion yen deficit in December.

Exports advanced an annual 12.2 percent, topping expectations for 9.4 percent growth and up from 9.3 percent in the previous month. Imports climbed 7.9 percent year-on-year versus forecasts for 7.7 percent growth.

The Nikkei average jumped 428.96 points or 1.97 percent to finish at
22,149.21 while the broader Topix index finished 2.17 percent higher at
1,775.15. Honda Motor, Toyota Motor, Nintendo, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Mizuho Financial all ended up over 2 percent.

Australian shares rose notably as financials and industrial stocks advanced, offsetting losses in the material and energy sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 37.60 points or 0.64 percent to finish at 5,941.60 while the broader All Ordinaries index closed 0.65 percent higher at 6,044.

The big four banks rose between 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent while household products distributor GWA Group soared over 11 percent after releasing its half-year results.

On the flip side, Woodside Petroleum slumped 7.9 percent after coming out of a trading halt following a capital raising. Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended with modest losses.

Seoul stocks rose for the fourth consecutive session amid improving sentiment globally. The benchmark Kospi climbed 20.99 points or 0.87 percent to 2,442.82, its highest level in two weeks.

New Zealand shares fell in quiet trading as the earnings season picks up steam. The benchmark S&P/NZX-50 index dropped 10.06 points or 0.12 percent to 8,115.25, with Sky Network Television and Mercury ending down about 2 percent each. Synlait Milk led the gainers to close 5.2 percent higher at $7.05.

New Zealand's service sector activity continued to expand strongly in January, survey figures from Business NZ showed today. The performance of services index dropped to 55.8 from 56.0 in December, signaling a possible slowing in GDP growth in the near term.

India's Sensex was down nearly 2 percent as worries over the Rs 11,300-crore fraud case at Punjab National Bank continued to keep investors nervous. Benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were up more than 1 percent.

U.S. stocks ended mixed on Friday after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted several Russian nationals for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment does not allege collusion between the Russians and President Donald Trump's campaign but could still cause headaches for the president.

The Dow inched up 0.1 percent to end higher for the sixth straight session after the release of upbeat housing and consumer sentiment data.

The S&P 500 also rose marginally to post its biggest weekly gain since 2013 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.2 percent after recent sharp gains.

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