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Asia stocks gain on China recovery hopes, weak yen

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Shutterstock photo - Asian stock markets were higher during late Asian trade on Monday, as appetite for growth-linked assets improved amid hopes China's economic recovery was gaining momentum.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.4%, while Australia's ASX/200 Index settled 0.2% higher.

Markets in Japan remained closed for a public holiday, but the Nikkei 225 futures index indicated a gain of 0.7% as the yen sank to the weakest level since June 2010 against the U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, investors were focusing on China. Government data last week showed that China's trade surplus widened unexpectedly in December, adding to signs of recovery in the world's second largest economy.

Chinese exports grew 14.1% from a year earlier in December, blowing past expectations for a 5% gain and up from a 2.9% increase in November.

Imports expanded by 6% from a year earlier, beating expectations for a 3.5% increase and following on from zero growth the previous month.

Market players were now looking ahead to a report on fourth quarter gross domestic product due to be released on Friday, along with reports on industrial production and retail sales.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng advanced on the back of gains in stocks sensitive to China's growth prospects.

The China insurance sector contributed to gains, with China Life Insurance Group shares rising 3.2%, Ping An Insurance Group up 2.9% and AIA Group tacking on 1.4%.

On the downside, shares in Li & Fung plunged 15.6% after warning core operating profit for the past year could tumble by as much as 40%, amid ongoing restructuring costs.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the benchmark ASX/200 Index inched up as miners put in a mixed performance, with markets focused on China.

Australian commodity producers are heavily reliant on Chinese demand for raw materials.

Mining giant Rio Tinto rose 0.3%, while BHP Billiton declined 0.3%.

Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a mildly higher open, ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke later in the trading day.

The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.25% at the open, France's CAC 40 futures rose 0.3%, London's FTSE 100 futures eased up 0.15%, while Germany's DAX futures pointed to a rise of 0.15% at the open.

Later Monday, the euro zone was to release official data on industrial production. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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