Asia Markets

Asia shares gain on US highs, China data; Nikkei at 2-month peak


Asian equity markets rose on the first trading day of June following record highs for the and the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week and mixed Chinese data.

Data on Sunday showed China's factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in five months in May while two private surveys showed that home prices fell slightly from the previous month, adding to fresh signs of cooling in the property market.

"While the PMI data doesn't completely dispel China growth concerns, it certainly shows the mild stimulus measures it has taken recently have been gaining traction," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in a morning note.

Financial markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are shut Monday for the Dragon Boat Festival.

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Tensions in the South China Sea also remain in focus after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused Beijing of its destabilizing actions there during an Asian security forum in Singapore over the weekend. Beijing's deputy chief of staff called Hagel's comments "baseless and unreasonable."

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Nikkei 2% higher

Japan's benchmark index ended at its highest level since April 4 after data showed that companies raised their capital expenditure by an annual 7.4 percent in the January-March period. May marked the Nikkei's first monthly gain in five months.

A weaker currency also underpinned gains as the yen breached the 102 handle against the dollar.

Dai-Ichi Life Insurance lost 5 percent on news that it is considering buying U.S. insurer Protective Live for $4.87 billion.

Toyota Motor added 1 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that that it will invest around $4.8 billion in domestic facilities this fiscal year.

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ASX up 0.5%

Australian shares bounced off a one-week low of 5,482 points in early trade on some upbeat data. Company gross operating profits beat estimates to jump 3 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter.

Continued weakness in miners capped larger gains on the benchmark . BHP Billiton fell more than 1 percent after iron ore prices declined 4 percent to sit at $91.80 a tonne.

Karoon Gas surged 42 percent after Origin Energy said it would buy the company's gas assets for up to $800 million.

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Kospi adds 0.2%

South Korean shares snapped their two-day losing streak as strong foreign buying overshadowed weak economic reports. May manufacturing activity fell to a nine-month low while exports fell to an eight-month low last month.

Among the top gainers, steelmaker Posco rose 1.7 percent while LG Electronics rallied 3 percent.

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Emerging markets rally

Thailand's benchmark SET Index rallied 1.8 percent after Moody's affirmed the country's sovereign rating of Baa1, saying that credit strengths were strong enough to weather the political instability.

Indian shares also added 2 percent ahead of the central bank's policy review on Tuesday.