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Asian stocks broadly higher as investors look to key US, China policy events

Key Points
  • The mainland Chinese markets were mixed on Monday after last Friday's economic data release missed expectations.
  • Investors were setting their sights on key policy events in the coming week — ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's upcoming interest rate meeting and as China on Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the country's reforms under former leader Deng Xiaoping.

Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Monday following a report suggesting further turmoil for the markets in 2019.

Investors were setting their sights on key policy meetings in the coming week — ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's upcoming interest rate meeting and as China on Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the country's reforms under former leader Deng Xiaoping.

President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver a major speech on Monday. It comes as Beijing's trade war with Washington spurs government advisors and think tanks to urge for urgent reforms in Asia's largest economy.

The mainland Chinese markets were mixed by the end of their trading day after the country reported lower than expected economic data last Friday. The Shanghai composite rose 0.16 percent to close at around 2,597.97 while the Shenzhen composite declined by 0.309 percent to end the trading day at about 1,323.31.

One investor told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday that the bargain hunting for Chinese shares has already started.

"Over the next few months, if there were to be any more weakness in the Chinese market, we think that there will be more investors coming in to buy," said Khiem Do, head of Greater China investments at Barings. "The Chinese markets are actually quite cheap."

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was slightly higher in its final hour of trade.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.62 percent to close at 21,506.88 while the Topix index saw gains of 0.13 percent to finish the trading day at 1,594.20. Shares of conglomerate Softbank recovered from earlier losses during the session to gain 0.52 percent ahead of the anticipated public listing of its mobile unit on Dec. 19.

South Korea's Kospi closed fractionally higher at 2,071.09.

Australia's saw gains of 1 percent to close at 5,658.3, with almost all sectors in positive territory.

The heavily-weighted financial subindex, however, slipped 0.11 percent, with shares of Australia's so-called Big Four banks mostly seeing losses. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 1.57 percent, Westpac shed 0.92 percent and National Australia Bank slipped 0.59 percent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, on the other hand, recovered from earlier losses to rise 0.65 percent.

"The 'Santa Rally' which had been hoped for has proven to be frustratingly elusive; and now markets are quite happy, if not desperate, for at least a dovish line to be thrown by the FOMC (and other global central banks)," said Mizuho Bank in a note on Monday, in reference to the U.S. central bank's upcoming Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Dec. 18 and 19.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

BIS: Market sell-off wasn't 'isolated'

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), an umbrella group for the world’s central banks, said on Sunday that recent market tensions are a sign of more turmoil to come. It warned that a normalization of monetary policy is likely to trigger a flurry of sharp sell-offs in the near future.

"The market tensions we saw during this quarter were not an isolated event," Claudio Borio, head of the monetary and economic department at the BIS, said in the report.

"Monetary policy normalization was bound to be challenging, especially in light of trade tensions and political uncertainty," Borio added.

The report comes at a time when stocks worldwide have come under renewed pressure from a myriad of factors, ranging from a global trade war between the world's two largest economies, to intensifying concerns about a possible economic slowdown over the coming months.

Stocks on Wall Street saw sharp declines on Friday after weaker-than-expected economic data out of China and Europe which fueled concerns of an economic slowdown worldwide.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 500 points to close at its lowest level since early May, following a wider decline in stock markets globally. The Dow is now lower by 2.5 percent for the year. U.S. futures on Monday implied a partial recovery for the Dow at the open.

The fell 1.9 percent to 2,599.95 — its lowest closing level since April, while the Nasdaq Composite pulled back 2.26 percent to 6,910.66. The losses on Friday erased gains for the week across the major indexes.

Renault reportedly demands Nissan shareholder meeting

Renault's deputy CEO, Thierry Bollore, wrote a letter to Nissan urging the Japanese automaker to hold a shareholder meeting, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

In the letter, Bollore cited the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn in Tokyo last month as a "significant risk" to the car makers' partnership. Ghosn was apprehended in November on suspicions of underreporting income and misusing company funds.

Ghosn is considered the mastermind behind the alliance between French automaker Renault and Japanese manufacturers Nissan and Mitsubishi. Renault saved Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999, and took a 40 percent stake in the company.

Shares of Nissan slipped 0.28 percent on Monday while Mitsubishi fell 1.19 percent.


The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.385 after touching lows below 96.5 in the previous trading week.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 113.40 against the dollar after touching highs around 112.3 last week. The was at $0.7176 after seeing highs around the $0.724 handle in the previous trading week.

— CNBC's Sam Meredith, Javier E. David and Fred Imbert contributed to this report.