Nikkei Leads Asia Up With 2.4% Surge
Most Asian stock markets rallied on Monday, led by a 2.4 percent jump in Japanese shares after the yen slumped on news the government looks set to nominate Haruhiko Kuroda, the president of the Asian Development Bank and advocate of aggressive monetary easing, as the next Bank of Japan governor.
HSBC's flash China PMI for February showed growth in the country's manufacturing sector pulled-back from two-year highs despite racking up a fourth consecutive month of expansion, taking the edge off gains in China and Australia, where are stocks are arguably among the most sensitive to Chinese economic data.
Still, markets closed deep in positive territory, with the Shanghai Composite ending the day 0.5 percent higher, while strong gains in retail and bank stocks helped Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 close up 0.8 percent and within sight of four-and-a-half year peaks set last week.
The day's clear out performer was the Nikkei stock index, which rose to 11,662 points, its highest level since September 2008.
News of Kuroda's possible appointment as the next Bank of Japan governor triggered a 1.4 percent slump in the yen against the U.S. dollar. Kuroda's dovish bent is seen as positive for dollar-yen and the yen's sell-off gave the Nikkei 225 another jolt upwards.
The current BOJ chief Masaaki Shirakawa is due to step down next month. Expectations of aggressive monetary easing have helped drive Japanese shares up about 10 percent so far this year, outpacing a rally in the S&P 500, which has rallied just over 6 percent.
"Both the rise in Japanese shares and the rise in dollar/yen, has been an element of our strategy for some months. The change in Japan is material, " Donald Hanna, managing director at Fortress Investment Group told CNBC Asia's "Cash Flow."
Electronics retailer Sharp bucked the bullish trend in Tokyo stocks, slumping more than 5 percent to a seven-week low of 289 yen on reports that a turnaround plan with it main lenders is unlikely to include a capital infusion.
Sharp was the worst performing stock on the Tokyo stock market, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
Sentiment in Asian markets also got a lift on upbeat economic data from Europe and reassuring comments from a Federal Reserve official lifted Wall Street shares at the end of last week.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Friday that that the central bank's aggressive easy money policy will stay in place for a "long time." The comments helped push the Dow Jones stock index higher, although other major U.S. stock indices closed Friday in the red.
Adding to the upward momentum Friday was news that German business sentiment jumped at its fastest rate since July 2010 in February.
South Korean stocks bucked the regional trend and ended Monday almost 0.5 percent lower on concerns that the prospect of a more aggressive monetary policy in Japan will spell further weakness for the yen at the expense of the South Korean won.
In fact, the yen fell to its weakest level against the South Korean won since late 2008, with the strength in the won helping send shares in auto parts supplier Hyundai Mobis down more than 2.5 percent.
South Korean and Japanese firms compete against each other in a range of products from cars to TVs and computer chips.
The nation's new president Park Geun-hye was sworn in as the country's first female president Monday.
In Hong Kong, property-related stocks came under pressure following measures unveiled late on Friday to cool house prices. Hong Kong imposed higher stamp duties and home loan curbs, becoming the latest Asian country after China and Singapore to ramp up controls on the housing market this year.
Hong Kong property agent Midland Holding tumbled more than 5 percent, while property and construction was the worst performing sector on the Hang Seng Index. SHK shares fell almost 2 percent, while Cheung Kong, a leading local property developer, fell about 1 percent.
The losses in the property sector weighed on gains in the broader Hang Seng index, which closed up 0.2 percent higher.