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Asia stocks higher despite gloomy data; Shanghai outperforms

Asian equities were mostly higher on Monday as investors brushed off weak data, with China's benchmark index rising to a three-year high.

Chinese trade data revealed a sharp slowdown in November exports and imports. Still, the country's trade surplus rose to $54.5 billion, beating estimates.

"Overall, this data is likely to drive stimulus expectations. Investors are hoping to see an RRR cut and with a raft of releases out of China this week, any disappointment will drive these expectations higher," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG.

Read MoreChina data to dominate week in Asia

Meanwhile, Japan's revised third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) showed the economy shrank more than initially estimated, with growth contracting an annualized 1.9 percent.

A strong lead from Wall Street also boosted sentiment. The S&P 500 and Dow ended at record highs on Friday after U.S. employers created 321,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since January 2012.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Shanghai up 2.8%

China's benchmark index crossed the 3,000 level for the first time since April 2011, gaining for a fifth straight session. For the week that ended Friday, the Shanghai Composite rallied over 9 percent, its best weekly performance in five years, according to Reuters.

Brokerages outperformed with Hong Yuan Securities, CITIC Securities and Haitong Securities surging by the daily 10 percent limit.

Read MoreChina's 2015 GDP target may be leaked this week

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index rose to a one-and-a-half-week high, extending gains into a third session.

Why China's equity rally still has room to run

ASX 0.7% higher

Australia's benchmark also ended at a one-and-a-half-week high, while the Australian dollar pared losses after hitting a fresh four-year low of $0.8272.

Banks rallied after a financial system report released over the weekend recommended an increase in capital requirements; National Australia Bank led gains by 2 percent.

Qantas surged 14 percent after announcing that it expects to post its best first-half profit in four years, expecting a figure between A$300 million and A$350 million.

Nikkei flat

Japanese shares pared gains after breaching the 18,000 level but the index still closed at a new seven-and-a-half-year high while the yen moved off a seven-year trough of 121.84 per dollar hit in early trade.

Read MoreWhy the dollar is still king

Electronic exporters weighed down the benchmark Nikkei, with Alps Electric and Sony down 3 percent each.

Kospi dips 0.4%

South Korean shares retreated after ending at a two-month high on Friday. Among heavyweights on the benchmark Kospi, Hyundai Motor and steelmaker Posco dropped 1 percent each.