Asia Markets

Asia stocks inch higher as China's exports decline in November

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia were higher on Monday.
  • China's exports declined in November for the fourth consecutive month, according to the country's customs data.
  • China's overseas shipments dropped 1.1% year-on-year in November, below the 1.0% expansion expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Asia stocks edged higher on Monday as China's exports declined in November for the fourth consecutive month, according to the country's customs data.

Mainland Chinese stocks closed little changed, with the Shanghai composite fractionally higher at around 2,914.48, the Shenzhen component at 9,876.27 while the Shenzhen composite was at about 1,640.51.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 0.14% higher, as of its final hour of trading, with protests in the city crossing a 6-month milestone. Demonstrators have been locked in a stalemate with the city's embattled local government since early June.

China's overseas shipments dropped 1.1% year-on-year in November, below the 1.0% expansion expected by analysts in a Reuters poll. Imports, on the other hand, rose 0.3% as compared to a year earlier — exceeding projections for a 1.8% decline.

The latest print on Chinese trade comes as Beijing remains embroiled in a trade war with Washington. Both parties aim to reach a "phase one" trade deal that has remained elusive ahead of a closely-watched date of Dec. 15, when additional tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. are set to kick in.

The continued decline in exports from China means that Beijing has "very good incentive to come to some agreement," Steve Cochrane, chief Asia Pacific economist at Moody's Analytics, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "That ... might be a positive factor."

Still, Cochrane remained uncertain on the possible timeline for the two economic powerhouses to strike a deal: "I think there's probably as much of a chance that we go into next year before we get an agreement, as we get one next week."

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 0.33% higher at 23,430.70 as shares of index heavyweight and conglomerate Softbank Group gained more than 1% while the Topix index ended its trading day 0.51% higher at 1,722.07.

Japan's economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.8% in the July to September quarter, according to revised data from the country's Cabinet Office on Monday. That was sharply higher than the initial estimate of a 0.2% expansion.

Still, one economist voiced caution over growth figures for the fourth quarter.

"We had some very weak consumption figures for October which is … not much of a surprise after the sales tax hike, but the figures were probably … on the weaker end of what we had been anticipating," Marcel Thieliant, senior economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday.

Exacerbated by the fact that industrial production "fell very sharply in October," Thieliant said: "Clearly, (the fourth quarter) will be very weak. We have penciled in a 1% contraction in output."

South Korea's Kospi also added 0.33% to close at 2,088.65. Shares in Australia also gained, with the S&P/ASX 200 up by 0.34% to end its trading day at 6,730.00.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.3% higher.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.644 after falling from levels above 98.1 last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.59 per dollar after strengthening from lows beyond 109.6 in the previous week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6833 after rising from levels below $0.678 last week.

Oil prices dipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures shedding 0.23% to $64.24 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also fell 0.42% to $58.95 per barrel.

Correction: This report was updated to reflect that protests in the city of Hong Kong crossed a 6-month milestone.