Asia stocks mostly gain as Japan emerges from recession, investors await Greek debt meeting

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets mostly rose Monday after Japan emerged from recession last quarter and as investors looked ahead to a meeting between Greece and its main European creditors.

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KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 jumped 0.7 percent to 18,039.84 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 24.758.30. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 3,206.21 and Seoul's Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 1,959.25. Australia's benchmark gained while Singapore fell.

JAPAN REBOUND: Japan emerged from recession last quarter, though growth fell short of many forecasters' expectations. Data on Monday showed the world's third-largest economy grew at a 2.2 percent annualized rate in the October-December quarter, boosted by exports and public spending. Growth for 2014 was flat and real wages fell 0.1 percent. Private investment was anemic, suggesting that businesses and households still are cautious. Japan's economy slipped into recession last year after the government increased sales tax in April.

THE QUOTE: "The fact that the economic growth started stabilizing should be reassuring to both the government and the Bank of Japan," said economist Yoshiro Sato of Credit Agricole-CIB in a report. "That said, the level of real GDP is still far below that before the consumption tax hike and that will require continued efforts made by the government side in terms of structural reforms."

GREEK TENSIONS: Eurozone finance ministers meet Monday to consider Greece's proposal for short-term "bridge financing" without the onerous terms previously imposed on the country until a longer-term solution to Greece's crushing debt is found. Investors hope a deal will be reached to avoid Greece's exit from the euro. "Failure to reach a compromise may raise prospects of a debt default," said Mizuho Bank in a report.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose to a new record Friday as stock prices gained on a rebound in oil prices and stronger corporate earnings. The S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to 2,096.99, passing the previous record close set Dec. 29. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.3 percent to 18,019.35, just 35 points short of its all-time high. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.8 percent to 4,893.84.

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ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude was down 24 cents to $52.54 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.57 on Friday to close at $52.78. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 20 cents to $61.32 a barrel in London. It gained $1.24 on Friday to close at $61.52.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dropped to 118.60 yen from 118.76 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.1416 from $1.1390.