Share prices were mostly higher in Asia on Monday, lifted by robust trade data from Japan that suggest a sustained recovery in demand in China and other major markets. Last week's strong finish on Wall Street also helped lift regional benchmarks.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.4 percent to 22,857.22, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.4 percent to 28,966.52. South Korea's Kospi was flat at 2,481.59 and the S&P ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.7 percent to 6,038.10. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1 percent lower to 3,262.01. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
WALL STREET: Wall Street capped last week with broad gains with the Dow Jones industrial average, Standard &Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq closing at record highs as investors welcomed signs that Congressional Republicans were solidifying support for a major overhaul of the nation's tax laws. The S&P 500 rose 0.9 percent to 2,675.81 and the Dow gained 0.6 percent to 24,651.74. The Nasdaq added 1.2 percent to 6,936.58 while the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1.6 percent to 1,530.42.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "A lift in shares and industrial commodities on Friday night has Asia Pacific investors eyeing opening gains today. A rising U.S. dollar will support the positive sentiment. However a full slate of global data releases this week and bond markets that refuse to reflect an improving growth outlook may undermine enthusiasm," Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets said in a commentary.
JAPAN TRADE: Japan's exports rose 16 percent in November from a year earlier driven by robust overseas demand for cars and manufacturing equipment that is helping to sustain the longest economic expansion in more than 15 years. Customs data show the trade surplus slipping 23 percent from a year earlier to 113.4 billion yen ($1 billion), however, as imports jumped 17 percent thanks to a surge in purchases of crude oil and natural gas.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 7 cents to $57.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 26 cents to settle at $57.30 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 17 cents to $63.40. It fell 8 cents to close at $63.23 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The U.S. dollar strengthened to 112.69 Japanese yen from 112.60 late Friday. The euro also gained, to $1.1764 from $1.1747.