Asian stocks rose on Monday, with Japanese shares leading the way, after the G20 meeting in Russia refrained from directly criticizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government for actively trying to weaken the yen. G20 finance chiefs pledged to strengthen financial stability and promote sustainable growth, while reaffirming their commitment to refrain from competitive devaluation.
China's Shanghai Composite index edged up 0.1 percent as trading resumed after a nine-day break for the Lunar New Year holidays. China's retail sales rose at the slowest pace in four years during the week-long Lunar New Year festival, data from the Commerce Ministry revealed, dampening investor sentiment to some extent. Retail sales increased 14.7 percent underpinned by jewelry sales. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.3 percent.
Japanese stocks rallied on a weaker yen after Japan's economic and monetary policies escaped direct criticism at the weekend's G20 meeting. The Nikkei average jumped 2.1 percent while the broader Topix index closed up 2.2 percent. Exporters were among the major beneficiaries, with automaker Honda Motor rising 1.5 percent, while chipmaker Advantest soared 4.9 percent and Tokyo Electron advanced 4.3 percent.
Sony rose 1.2 percent amid reports it plans to offer the technology to stream games along with the Sony PlayStation 4 console at a big New York event. Lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group jumped 4.9 percent and realty firm Mitsui Fudosan rallied 3.8 percent on expectations of aggressive monetary easing.
Standard & Poor's has affirmed its credit ratings on Japan, citing the sovereign's strong external position and a recovered financial system. The ratings agency affirmed the long- and short-term credit ratings at AA- and A-1+, respectively, but maintained its negative outlook on Japan's debt, saying it will take time to determine whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to stimulate growth and end deflation will be effective.
Australian shares rose to a fresh four-and-a-half-year high boosted by better-than-expected earnings from a string of companies last week. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index ended up about 0.6 percent each. Westpac led the major banks higher, rallying 3.6 percent, while NAB and ANZ gained 2-3 percent. Big miner Rio Tinto rose 1.1 percent on hopes for increased demand as China returned from holidays. Rival BHP Billiton posted a modest 0.2 percent gain ahead of its results due out Wednesday.
Newcrest Mining plunged 5.4 percent after gold prices slumped below 1,600 dollar an ounce for the first time since August on signs of recovering growth in the U.S. Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 1.9 percent and Telstra declined 1.3 percent on going ex-dividend. In economic news, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that sales of new motor vehicles in Australia dipped 2.4 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted 95,694.
Seoul shares ended little changed with a positive bias amid concerns over a weakening yen. The Kospi average ended up 0.73 points or 0.04 percent at 1,982. Exporter Hyundai Motor fell 1.9 percent and shares of its affiliate Kia Motors retreated 2.4 percent. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics eased half a percent, snapping a five-day winning streak.
New Zealand shares rose, helped by gains elsewhere across Asia and an easing kiwi dollar. The benchmark NZX-50 index gained 0.4 percent. Heavyweight Telecom rose 1.6 percent on bargain hunting following Friday's sell-off, while Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, added 1.5 percent. NZX fell 2.3 percent on disappointing results, while Freightways slid 1.1 percent despite posting a record profit for the half year ended December.
Auckland Airport slipped 0.4 percent after the New Zealand Superannuation Fund sold a $277 million stake in the airport company at a discount to institutional investors. Utility Contact Energy lost a percent ahead of its interim results tomorrow.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was moving up 0.4 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index was up 0.1 percent and the Taiwan Weighted added half a percent, while the markets in Indonesia and Malaysia were subdued.
U.S. stocks ended a volatile session on a lackluster note on Friday, as traders weighed upbeat reports on New York manufacturing activity and consumer sentiment against disappointing industrial production data and a sharp fall in shares of retail giant Walmart amid reports suggesting that its February sales so far were a "total disaster". The Dow inched up about 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.1 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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