Stock markets in Asia mostly rise on Monday, with Tokyo and Shanghai scoring fresh multi-year highs, as investors reacted to a rejuvenated dollar and news of further infrastructure projects in China.
"A stronger greenback has worked as a treat for Asian equities and seen the region get off to a positive start to the week. Gains for the greenback against the yen and Australian dollar have played a particularly big role [today]," wrote IG's Stan Shamu in a note.
However, risks regarding a potential Greek exit from the euro zone remained in the backdrop after the country's interior minister, Nikos Voutsis, due to the International Monetary Fund on Sunday. The euro lost 0.4 percent to last trade at 1.0975 against the U.S. dollar.
Meanwhile, bourses in Hong Kong and South Korea are closed for public holidays. Beyond the region, the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France are shuttered as well.
Last week, U.S. equities failed to hold highs touched during Friday's session and eventually finished weaker after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen indicated that a rate hike would be appropriate this year if the economy improves. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 shed 0.3 and 0.2 percent, respectively, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed flat.
Shanghai Comp jumps 3.4%
China's key Shanghai Composite finished at its highest level since January 2008 for the second consecutive day, led by infrastructure and transport counters after the country's state planning agency announced Monday a list of more than 1,000 proposed projects that it is inviting private investors to help fund and build.
Financials were also among the most actively-traded stocks, with Agricultural Bank of China closing up 2.9 percent. China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications and Bank of China advanced nearly 2 percent each.
Nikkei gains 0.7%
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index advanced for the seventh straight day to finish at its highest level since June 2000, thanks to a weaker yen. The Japanese currency traded at 121.60 against the greenback, its weakest level in nearly 2 months.
Export-oriented names drew hefty buy orders, except for Canon and Toshiba which stepped slightly into the red. The latter was in focus following Friday's announcement that it would extend a probe already underway into accounting practices at its TV, computer and chip businesses. The industrial conglomerate also announced a pullout from the television and appliances market in Singapore by the end of May due to strong competition.
Other gainers include electrical appliance retailer Yamada Denki, which settled 1.71 percent higher after saying that it plans to shut down 46 money-losing stores in Japan by the end of May.
On the domestic data front, exports climbed 8.0 percent from a year earlier in April, beating expectations for a 6.4 percent rise, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance early Monday. However, imports fell 4.2 percent on-year, compared with expectations for a 1.5 percent decline. This resulted in a trade deficit of 53.4 billion yen ($439.3 million), compared to an estimate of 318.9 billion yen.
ASX rises 1%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index finished at a one-week high as a 3.5 percent bounce in iron ore prices sparked demand for the mining plays.
Banking heavyweights reversed a lower open, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac leading advances with a more than 1 percent rise each. "Three of the big four banks are now yielding close to 6 percent, while one of them is just under 5 percent. As a result, investors will be happy to buy these stocks at some point, particularly heading into the end of the financial year," IG analysts said.
Healthscope climbed 2.6 percent on the back of a report by the Australian Financial Review that the medical facilities operator is in talks to sell its pathology business.
In other corporate news, Independence Group launched a friendly A$1.8 billion ($1.4 billion) scrip and cash takeover of fellow Nickel developer Sirius Resources. Shares of the former closed down 12 percent, while the latter leaped 20.4 percent. Recruiter Skilled Group also made gains of 11.8 percent after it said it is entering takeover talks with Programmed Group.
Straits Times adds 0.3%
Singapore's Straits Times index stood out among its Southeast Asian peers with a 0.3 percent gain. However, the Singapore dollar lost 0.36 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar after government data showed the nation's April consumer price index (CPI) posted its biggest year-on-year drop in five years.
Consumer prices dropped 0.5 percent from a year ago, worse than the 0.1 percent dip expected by Reuters economists, and chalking up the sixth straight month in which CPI fell year-on-year.
As such, the greenback fetched 1.3405 Singapore dollars late Monday, marking the Singapore's currency lowest level in one month.