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Asia stocks higher after China, U.S. jobs data; Nikkei ends up 0.5%

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Shutterstock photo - Asian stock markets were mostly higher during late Asian trade on Monday, as investors in the region had their first chance to react to Friday's stronger-than-forecast U.S. nonfarm payrolls data as well as a flurry of economic reports out of China over the weekend.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index eased up 0.1%, Australia's ASX/200 Index ended 0.45% higher, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed 0.5% higher.

The Department of Labor said the U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs last month, blowing past expectations for an increase of 160,000. The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.7%, the lowest level since December 2008, from 7.9% in January.

Meanwhile, in China, official data released over the weekend showed that consumer prices in China rose 3.2% in February from a year earlier, above expectations for a 3% increase and accelerating sharply from a 2% rate of increase in January.

The faster-than-expected increase in the rate of inflation was likely to dampen hopes that Beijing will introduce fresh easing measures in the near-term to boost economic growth.

Separate reports showed that industrial production rose 9.9% in February, less than the expected 10.5% increase and following a 10.3% rise the previous month.

The flurry of data came after a report on Friday showed that the nation's trade surplus narrowed less-than-expected in February from January, as exports jumped 21.8%, while imports tumbled 15.2%.

China's trade surplus hit USD15.3 billion last month, down from a USD29.2 billion surplus reported in January. Analysts were expecting an USD8.8 billion deficit.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei rose to the highest level since September 2008, as the yen hovered near a four-year low against the U.S. dollar, boosting exporters.

A weaker yen increases the value of overseas income at Japanese companies when repatriated, boosting the outlook for export earnings.

Automakers Mitsubishi and Honda surged 5.9% and 2.6% respectively, while Sony and Canon climbed 3% and 3.6%.

Japanese megabanks were also higher, with stocks of the nation's largest lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rallying 6.3%, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group added 6.7% and 4.9% respectively.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the benchmark ASX/200 Index inched higher to touch the highest level since September 2008, as lenders were broadly higher.

The big four banks all rose, with Australia's number 1 lender, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia gaining 0.5%, while National Australia Bank tacked on 1.75%.

Gains were limited as global miners declined. Australian commodity producers are heavily reliant on Chinese demand for raw materials.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto lost 0.75% and 2% respectively, while iron ore maker Fortescue Metals Group slumped 1.1%.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng swung between small gains and losses in choppy trade as traders digested economic reports out of China.

Hong Kong's blue-chip exporters contributed to gains, with clothing retailer Esprit Holdings up 0.5% and Li & Fung rising 1.3%.

The China financial sector were among the biggest drags on the index, with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China declining 0.5% and Bank of China down 0.6%, while insurance giant Ping An lost 1.5%.

Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a lower open. The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a loss of 0.25% at the open, France's CAC 40 futures dipped 0.3%, London's FTSE 100 futures eased down 0.2%, while Germany's DAX futures pointed to a flat open.

Earlier in the day, official data showed that Germany's trade surplus declined to EUR15.7 billion in January from a revised 16.9 billion the previous month.

German exports rose by a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in January compared to the same month last year, while imports rose 3.3%. - 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.

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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