Asia Markets

Nikkei leads gains in Asia, hits 8-year high after GDP

Asian markets traded broadly higher amid choppy trade on Monday, with Japanese shares charging up to a near 8-year high, shrugging off weaker-than-expected growth figures released before the market opened.

Although concerns about Greece's debt problem linger in the background, traders are starting to think that a compromise will be reached when both parties reconvene in Brussels today.

"People are starting to price in that Greece will not exit. Perhaps today won't be the last day of negotiations, but both sides have the potential to lose out big [if Grexit occurs] and markets understand that," Harmut Issel, head of Equity and Macro APAC at UBS, told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia."

U.S. stocks closed at highs last Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.3 percent to close above 18,000 and S&P 500 setting a new record as the energy sector advanced on firming oil prices. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also added 0.8 percent to finish at its highest level since March 2000.

U.S. crude oil futures settled up $1.57 at $52.78 a barrel, while Brent oil traded above $61 a barrel as eurozone economic growth exceeded expectations and data showed another drop in the U.S. oil rig count.

Nikkei jumps 0.5%

Japan's Nikkei 225 index settled above the 18,000 level, hitting its highest level since July 2007, following data that showed the world's third-largest economy crawling out of recession in the final quarter of 2014. Gross domestic product grew an annualized 2.2 percent, but missed a Reuters poll expecting a 3.7 percent gain. Meanwhile, dollar-yen hovered near a one-and-a-half-week low of 118.5.

"Although we need to look at some of this economic data, we also need to think about what's happening in the background. There are signs of wage increase, higher household income and very low unemployment. All these argue for a more robust outlook for Japan," Alexander Treves, head of Equities, Japan at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box."

Honda was in focus following its announcement to slow production at some of its plants in North America; shares of the carmaker advanced 1.4 percent, outpacing its rivals in the sector. Toyota Motor and Nissan closed up 0.3 and 1 percent higher, respectively, but Suzuki Motor 0.9 percent.

Robot maker Fanuc rallied 3.4 percent after it said it will spend about 100 billion yen to expand output capacity of core products in Japan. However, Sony slumped over 2 percent on news that it recently invested about $842,000 to buy a stake of roughly 2 percent in a Japanese startup making robot cars.

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Mainland indices up

China's Shanghai Composite bounced back into positive territory amid choppy trade, up 0.6 percent in a six-day winning streak. Among the most active stocks, China United Network Communications rose by the daily maximum of 10 percent.

The prominent financial sectors, however, were lackluster, thereby capping gains on the bourse. Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank made losses between 0.3 and 0.5 percent each. Among junior lenders, Merchants Bank and Hua Xia Bank led declines with a nearly 2 percent slump, respectively.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.2 percent to hover near a one-and-a-half-week high.

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ASX gains 0.2%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index pared early losses to finish modestly higher at near seven-year highs as banking majors turned positive. Westpac, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank of Australia erased losses to rebound between 0.3 percent, while National Australia Bank held flat.

Coal hauler Aurizon Holdings reversed gains to notch down over 2 percent, despite delivering a 17 percent increase in underlying first-half net profit. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank also failed to get a boost from the announcement of better half-year cash profit; shares of the lender tanked 4.5 percent.

QBE Insurance Group outperformed the bourse with a 3.5 percent rise following news that it is selling its agency businesses in Australia. In other news, Patties Foods recalled its frozen berry products following a hepatitis A outbreak in a Chinese plant. Shares of the Australian food manufacturer recouped some losses to finish 7.7 percent lower.

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Kospi flat

South Korean shares saw subdued trade a day ahead of the Bank of Korea's policy meeting on Tuesday, but managed to touch a one-and-a-half-week intraday high of 1,963. Among top gainers, Hyundai Securities raked in 5.1 percent, while index heavyweight Posco climbed 1.1 percent.

Shinsegae, which signed a memorandum of understanding with Standard Chartered to implant sales and marketing channels at its main retail stores, made losses of 1 percent. Tong Yang Life Insurance slumped nearly 9 percent on news that China's Anbang Insurance Group could buy a controlling stake in the South Korean life insurer for about $1 billion.

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Emerging Asia mixed

Thailand's SET index finished lower by 0.5 percent following data that indicated the Southeast Asian country expanded 2.3 percent on-year during the October-December period, a tick lower than Reuters expectations for 2.4 percent growth.

India's Nifty index finished flat after January's wholesale price index (WPI) fell for the second time in three months, in tandem with falling oil prices. The closely-watched inflation number unexpectedly fell 0.39 percent last month from a year earlier, its biggest decline since June 2009, government data showed on Monday.