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Asian Markets Higher As Investors Digest China Data

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Asian stock markets are higher on Monday following the gains on Wall Street Friday amid optimism about U.S.-China trade talks and the surge in crude oil prices to a near two-month high on Friday. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they digest a raft of economic data from China, including full-year 2018 GDP data showing China's weakest annual economic growth in 28 years. However, the data was in line with expectations.

In addition, China's industrial production and retail sales in December beat expectations, while fixed asset investment missed forecasts.

The Australian market is extending its winning streak to a fifth day amid renewed optimism about U.S.-China trade talks and the surge in crude oil prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 21.10 points or 0.36 percent to 5,900.70 after rising to a high of 5,909.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 24.30 points or 0.41 percent to 5,965.50.

The major miners are higher, reflecting the increase in base metal prices. Fortescue Metals is advancing almost 2 percent, BHP Group is adding 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto is edging up 0.1 percent.

Sandfire Resources said it has approached miner MOD Resources about a potential takeover. Shares of Sandfire Resources are declining more than 1 percent, while MOD Resources' shares are in a trading halt.

Oil stocks are also gaining after crude oil prices advanced more than 3 percent on Friday. Santos is rising almost 2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1 percent and Oil Search is up 0.3 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is down 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners are weak after gold prices fell on Friday. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are declining more than 1 percent each.

Healthscope said it expects to receive a binding takeover proposal from Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management by the end of this month. The hospital operator's shares are higher by 0.2 percent.

Treasury Wine Estates said its chief operating officer Robert Foye has left the company after breaching internal policies. The company's shares are higher by 0.8 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is weaker against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7162, down from $0.7192 on Friday.

The Japanese market has pared early gains and is modestly higher following the positive cues from Wall Street amid indications of progress in U.S.-China trade talks and the surge in crude oil prices Friday. Investors are cautious as they digested China's economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 68.74 points or 0.33 percent to 20,734.81, after rising to a high of 20,892.68 earlier. Japanese shares closed higher on Friday.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Canon is adding almost 1 percent, Sony is rising 0.6 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.5 percent.

In the tech sector, Tokyo Electron is adding more than 1 percent, while Advantest is losing more than 2 percent.

Among the major automakers, Honda is higher by almost 1 percent and Toyota is adding 0.6 percent.

Toyota Motor and Panasonic plan to launch a joint venture in 2020 to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles, according to Japanese media reports, citing sources close to the matter. Shares of Panasonic are higher by more than 2 percent.

Bloomberg reported, citing sources close to the matter, that the French government has asked Japan to accept a possible merger between Renault SA and Nissan Motor following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn. Shares of Nissan are up 0.4 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up more than 1 percent.

In the oil space, Japan Petroleum and Inpex are higher by more than 2 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, Tokyo Tatemono is rising 7 percent, while Taiyo Yuden and Showa Shell Sekiyu are gaining more than 4 percent each.

On the flip side, Chugai Pharmaceutical and Keio Corp. are declining more than 1 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see December data for nationwide as well as Tokyo area department store sales and convenience store sales.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 109 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan are also higher, while South Korea is edging lower. The markets in Malaysia are closed in observance of Thaipusam.

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply higher on Friday as traders continued to express optimism about trade talks between the U.S. and China. Adding to the positive sentiment, a report from Bloomberg News said China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the U.S.

The Dow soared 336.25 points or 1.4 percent to 24,706.35, the Nasdaq jumped 72.76 points or 1 percent to 7,157.23 and the S&P 500 surged up 34.75 points or 1.3 percent to 2,670.71.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Friday. While the German DAX Index spiked by 2.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index shot up by 2 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices moved up sharply on Friday to a near two-month high. WTI crude for February delivery surged up $1.73 or 3.3 percent to $53.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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