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Asian Shares Mostly Higher On Stimulus Bets

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Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Monday as weak economic data from the U.S. and China raised hopes of further stimulus from global central banks.

Data released Friday showed weaker than expected U.S. jobs growth in the month of August, while data from China showed that the country's exports unexpectedly fell during the month.

Buoying market confidence were expectations that the European Central Bank would also cut interest rates on Thursday to boost growth.

Chinese stocks advanced as the country's central bank pumped 120 billion yuan (about $16.94 billion) into the financial system to shore up the flagging economy.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 25.14 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 3,024.74, although Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended marginally lower at 26,681.40.

Investors shrugged off official data showing that Chinese exports unexpectedly decreased in August amid the ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. administration.

In dollar terms, exports decreased 1 percent on a yearly basis in August, confounding expectations for an increase of 2.1 percent. At the same time, imports declined 5.6 percent, slower than the expected fall of 6.3 percent.

As a result, the trade balance showed a surplus of $34.8 billion in August versus the $42.8 billion surplus forecast by economists.

Japanese shares hit a 5-1/2-week high on hopes that central banks in some of the world's largest economies would deploy new monetary stimulus to stave off a brewing global recession.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 118.85 points, or 0.6 percent, to 21,318.42, its highest closing level since August 2, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.9 percent higher at 1,551.11.

Nissan Motor shares edged down slightly on a Nikkei report that Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has expressed his intention to step down.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan had a current account surplus of 1,999.9 billion yen in July, down 1.3 percent from last year. That was shy of expectations for a surplus of 2,046 billion yen and up from 1,211.2 billion yen in June.

The trade balance showed a deficit of 74.5 billion yen, shy of expectations for a deficit of 24.0 billion yen and down from the 759.3-billion-yen surplus in the previous month.

Japan's economy grew an annualized 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, weaker than the preliminary reading for 1.8 percent annualized growth on the back of softer capital spending, Cabinet Office data showed.

Australian markets fluctuated before ending roughly flat. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index closed marginally higher at 6,648 and 6,760.10, respectively.

The big four banks rose between 0.3 percent and 1 percent on expectations of further policy easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Investors are also betting that Australia's central bank will cut interest rates more steeply than previously thought.

Mining and energy stocks ended on a subdued note as investors digested new data out of China showing that exports unexpectedly fell in August with a large contraction for shipments to the United States. Gold miners Evolution and Newcrest Mining dropped 2-3 percent as gold prices fell on improved risk appetite.

Australia's mortgage approvals increased more-than-expected in July, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed today. The number of owner occupier loans increased 4.2 percent, much larger than the expected growth of 1.5 percent.

Seoul stocks extended gains for the fourth straight session on hopes the European Central Bank will announce new stimulus measures during its meeting slated for Thursday. Traders also remained optimistic about the upcoming U.S.-China trade talks.

The benchmark Kospi climbed 10.42 points, or 0.5 percent, to finish at 2,019.55. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 1.3 percent, while chipmaker SK Hynix rallied 2.9 percent.

Meanwhile, logistics firm Hyundai Glovis declined 1.6 percent on reports its ship accidentally tilted sideways off the east coast of the United States.

New Zealand shares edged slightly lower, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending down 16.06 points, or 0.1 percent, at 11,202.93. Dairy processing company A2 Milk tumbled 3.3 percent.

The value of manufacturing activity in New Zealand fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent sequentially in the second quarter of 2019, Statistics New Zealand said in a report - following the downwardly revised 0.8 percent increase in the first quarter (originally 1.0 percent).

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher on Friday as a Chinese stimulus plan helped offset underwhelming jobs data hinting at a slowing economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 inched up 0.1 percent ,while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index slipped 0.2 percent.

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