After strong week, Asian stocks mostly higher ahead of Chinese GDP, factory data

Markets Associated Press

Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors looked ahead to Chinese economic and trade data for signs of whether Beijing will launch new stimulus.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.4 percent to 4,089.11 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 27,371.22. Seoul's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 2,090.54 and Sydney's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,981.80. Singapore also rose. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.1 percent to 19,882.42 after briefly passing 20,000 last week. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials rose 0.6 percent on Friday and the Standard & Poor's 500 gained 0.5 percent.

CHINA'S DATA DUMP: Data showed trade shrank more than expected in March, with imports down 12.7 percent from a year earlier and exports falling 15 percent. That fueled concern economic data due out Wednesday will show overall growth fell further in the first three months of 2015 after declining to 7.3 percent in the final quarter of last year.

THE QUOTE: "The elephant in the room is whether China's deterioration has endured," following softer industrial output and other data in January and February, said Mizuho Bank in a report. "The silver lining is that a softer outcome under dis-inflationary conditions will allow more stimulus to propel a revival in growth."

JAPAN MACHINERY ORDERS: Orders declined 0.4 percent in February compared with January but still were above their average for the previous quarter, fueling hopes business investment is rebounding. Spare capacity has declined in recent quarters, suggesting companies have to increase spending on machinery and equipment soon, according Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics.

CURRENCY: The dollar rose to 120.3230 yen from Friday's 120.1800 yen. The euro edged up to $1.0597 from the previous session's $1.0586.

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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 18 cents to $51.82 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 85 cents on Friday to close at $51.64. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 12 cents to $59.07 in London after rising $1.26 on Friday to $58.95.