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Nikkei jumps to 8-year high after Japan GDP

Asian markets turned higher early Monday, with Japanese shares charging up to an 8-year high, shrugging off weaker-than-expected growth figures released before the market opened.

Nikkei rises 0.7 percent

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index broke above the 18,000 level, hitting its highest level since July 2007, following data that showed the world’s third-largest economy crawling out of recession in the final quarter of 2014. Gross domestic product grew an annualized 2.2 percent, but missed a Reuters poll expecting a 3.7 percent gain. Meanwhile, dollar-yen hovered near a one-and-a-half-week low of 118.7.

“Although we need to look at some of this economic data, we also need to think about what’s happening in the background. There are signs of wage increase, higher household income and very low unemployment. All these argue for a more robust Japan,” Alexander Treves, head of Equities, Japan at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, said.

Honda was in focus following its announcement to cut model variations to focus on quality; shares of the carmaker advanced 1 percent, outpacing its rivals in the sector. Toyota Motor and Nissan inched up 0.2 and 0.5 percent, respectively, but Suzuki Motor fell 1 percent.

Mainland indices up

China’s Shanghai Composite opened up modestly to hover near a one-week high, on course for a six-day winning streak. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.3 percent.

ASX flat

Australian shares pared losses early Monday as banking heavyweights turned positive. Last Friday, the S&P ASX 200 index broke a four-session losing streak to settle at a seven-year high.

National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank of Australia erased losses to rebound 0.1 percent each, while Westpac remained in the red, down 0.1 percent.

Rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings reversed gains to notch down nearly 3 percent, despite delivering a 17 percent increase in underlying first-half net profit. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank also failed to get a boost from the announcement of better half-year cash profit; shares of the lender tanked 3.8 percent.

Meanwhile, QBE Insurance Group outperformed the bourse with a 2.5 percent rise following news that it is selling its agency businesses in Australia.

Kospi adds 0.1 percent

South Korean shares hit a one-and-a-half-week high as index heavyweights tacked on robust gains. Steelmaker Posco raked in 1.3 percent, while the top two heaviest weighted stocks Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor climbed 0.8 and 0.6 percent each.

Shinsegae is in focus after signing a memorandum of understanding with Standard Chartered to implant sales and marketing channels at its main retail stores. Shares of retailer retreated 1.2 percent early Monday.

Asia’s calendar

Meanwhile, Taiwan and Thailand are also on fourth-quarter GDP-watch. In India, the wholesale price index (WPI) for January is expected to rise 0.4 percent year-on-year, a Reuters poll showed, a tick higher than the 0.1 percent in the preceding month.

US stocks closed at highs last Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.3 percent to close above 18,000 and S&P 500 setting a new record as the energy sector advanced on firming oil prices. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also added 0.8 percent to finish at its highest level since March 2000.

US crude oil futures settled up USD 1.57 at USD 52.78 a barrel, while Brent oil traded above USD 61 a barrel as eurozone economic growth exceeded expectations and data showed another drop in the US oil rig count.

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