Asia Markets

Asian stocks finish mostly higher; Nikkei ends quarter down 9%

Asian shares ended mostly higher on Monday on growing hopes that China would move to stimulate its economy but trade was cautious as the first quarter came to an end.

For the quarter, Japan's was the region's worst performing index with losses of 9 percent - its worst quarterly performance in nearly two years. Emerging markets outperformed the broader Asian region with the Jakarta Composite up 11.5 percent for the quarter and Philippine shares 9 percent higher.

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In a speech reported by state media on Friday, China's premier indicated that Beijing was prepared to take action to bolster the economy, saying the government would gradually roll out targeted measures.

Nikkei adds 0.9%

Japanese shares rose to their highest levels in nearly three weeks, rising for a fourth straight session, as a weaker currency overshadowed disappointing economic data.

traded near Friday's one-week peak of 102.98, which boosted exporters across the board. Among the top gainers, Sony ended 4 percent higher while Nintendo and Honda Motor closed up over 2 percent each.

Retailer Aeon rallied 1.5 percent on news that it will roll out smartphone services next month priced at less than half of what major mobile carriers charge.

Meanwhile, investors brushed off weak data released before the open. Industrial output tumbled 2.3 percent in February from a month earlier, well short of forecasts for a 0.3 percent increase.

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Shanghai 0.4% lower

Mainland shares closed at a more than one-week low as investors digested the latest earnings. The mood was also cautious ahead of key manufacturing data. The government is due to release its official purchasing manager's index (PMI) alongside HSBC's final reading on Tuesday.

Anhui Conch lost 1.2 percent despite announcing that its net profit rose 48.3 percent last year, Dongfeng Motor eased 1.3 percent despite announcing that 2013 profit increased an annual 15.8 percent and China Southern Airlines rose 0.4 percent after 2013 net profit fell an annual 27.9 percent.

China Construction Bank, the nation's second largest lender by valuation, jumped 1 percent after reporting a better-than-expected 11 percent rise in 2013 net income.

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ASX jumps 0.5%

Australia's benchmark index ended at a two-week high, extending gains into a second session, after a private gauge of inflation steadied in March following a large increase in the official reading during the fourth-quarter last year.

Miners were mixed as copper prices were on track to post their biggest monthly loss since June. BHP Billiton rose 1.1 percent while Mount Gibson climbed 4 percent but Fortescue Metals fell over 1 percent.

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Home builders rallied after new home sales rose a monthly 4.6 percent in February. Bluescope Steel climbed 1.8 percent while CSR rallied 3 percent.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar retreated from Friday's four-week peak of $0.9261.

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Kospi gains 0.2%

South Korean shares closed at a fresh 2014 high for a second straight session thanks to a 1.2 percent gain in Hyundai Motor.

But data showing that the nation's current account surplus fell in February and news that North Korea started a firing drill off its west coast capped larger gains on the benchmark Kospi.

Samsung SDI ended 6.6 percent higher while its electronics materials affiliate Cheil Industries closed up 5.7 percent after Samsung SDI said it would acquire Cheil through a share swap.

Emerging markets higher

Thailand's benchmark SET Index tacked on 0.5 percent after Thais voted on Sunday to choose legislators for the upper house of parliament. Analysts say if anti-government forces dominate the upper house, it will be easier to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra if she is impeached.

Elsewhere, Indian shares finished flat and Philippine's PSE Composite rose 1 percent.