Asian stocks mixed after holiday weekend as investors look ahead to Korea, China data

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BEIJING, China – Asian stocks were mixed Monday in light trading after Japan reported a jump in its trade deficit and investors looked ahead to economic data this week from China and Korea.

Oil declined but stayed above $104 per barrel amid concern over simmering tensions in Ukraine.

The regional heavyweight, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index, added 0.7 per cent to 14,620.45 despite the government’s announcement that the country’s trade deficit widened by nearly 70 per cent to a record high in the year ending March 31. It was Japan’s third straight deficit year.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 per cent to 2,096.75. Investors are waiting for the preliminary version of HSBC Corp.’s survey of Chinese manufacturing due out Wednesday for signs of whether an economic slowdown has bottomed out.

The flash purchasing managers index “will be closely watched after a raft of mixed (but mostly soft) data,” said Mizuho Bank in a report. “Potential for upside resides more in stimulus prospects rather than activity pick-up.”

Taiwan’s Taiex shed 0.2 per cent to 8,951.10 and Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.3 per cent to 1,997.36. Korea is due to report data Thursday that are expected to show economic growth slowed in the first quarter.

Singapore was flat while Manila and Jakarta rose. Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong were closed for the Easter holiday.

Oil shed 23 cents to $104.07 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid concern about tensions in Ukraine following an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian insurgents. The contract added 44 cents in the previous session to $104.30 on concern Russian supplies might be disrupted if Europe or the United States impose sanctions.

In currency markets, the dollar gained 0.2 per cent to 102.66 yen and the euro was flat at $1.381.

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