China's Shanghai Composite index clinched fresh seven-year peaks on Monday, outperforming the region which has largely seen a mixed performance, as a stronger-than-expected U.S. nonfarm payrolls stoked concerns that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates soon.
On Friday, U.S. stocks closed narrowly mixed as investors eyed developments in Greece and weighed a bond yield rally on a strong jobs report, which supports the case for a rate hike this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 eased 0.3 and 0.1 percent, respectively, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq inched up 0.2 percent.
Mainland markets up
Shares in Shanghai rewrote their highest levels since January 2008, after slipping briefly into the red earlier in the day, as traders interpreted the mixed bag of trade data as impetus for further policy easing.
The mainland's yuan-denominated imports tumbled 17.9 percent in May from a year earlier, while exports fell by a smaller-than-expected 2.5 percent. This translated into a monthly trade surplus of 366.8 billion ($59.49 billion), which is close to the record $60.5 billion surplus recorded in February, when numbers were distorted by the Chinese New Year.
"It remains the view that bad news is good news. Every number we saw from China that has shown weakness has led to accommodation from the People's bank of China or some other means," Stephen Davies, CEO of Javelin Wealth Management, told CNBC. "It's been a rollercoaster ride and i don't think we are in touch with fundamentals so we getting a bit more cautious on valuations."
Also helping to support the bourse was expectations for China 'A' shares to be included in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which MSCI will announce tomorrow. Blue-chips such as banking stocks, which are seen to be largest beneficiaries if the inclusion comes true, were on a tear on Monday.
Bank of China and Bank of Communications leaped by the daily limit of 10 percent each, while Agricultural Bank of China jumped 7.3 percent. China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) jumped more than 6 percent each.
As investors swooped in on blue chip stocks, smaller-cap counters lost favor. The Shenzhen Composite tumbled 1.7 percent, while the start-up board ChiNext erased 4.4 percent.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index pared earlier losses to edge up 0.3 percent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished near the previous close, as a retreat in dollar-yen offset the impact of upbeat growth data. The currency pair was last quoted at 125.4, with the yen gaining ground of around 0.1 percent against the greenback.
Released before the market open, revised government data showed revised first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) expanded an annualized 3.9 percent, much higher than the preliminary reading of a 2.4 percent increase. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the economy grew 1 percent, higher than the preliminary reading of 0.6 percent, signaling the country's growth recovery.
Meanwhile, Japan's current account balance for April came in at 1.3 trillion yen, down from 2.9 trillion yen in the previous month.
Kospi sags 0.1%
South Korea's Kospi index nursed marginal losses amid worries about the outbreak of a deadly respiratory disease in the country.
The spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which could dampen consumer spending and hurt key sectors such as tourism, is ramping up the pressure on the nation's central bank to cut interest rates as early as this week, a central bank source reportedly told Reuters last Friday.
Most tourism-related plays recovered following morning declines. Hanatour Service and Hotel Shilla —a hotel and duty-free shop operator— closed up 1.4 and 2.5 percent, respectively. However, major retailers Hyundai Department Store eased 1 percent and Lotte Shopping finished flat.
Cheil Industries and affiliate Samsung C&T Corp fell 6.9 and 7.4 percent higher, respectively, on profit-taking. Shares of both companies rallied more than 10 percent each last week after U.S.-based hedge fund Elliott opposed the all-stock takeover offer from Cheil Industries for the Samsung unit. Cheil is Samsung Group's de facto holding company.
Meanwhile, Australian markets are closed for a public holiday.
— Evelyn Cheng contributed to this market report