Asia shares gain as Japan trade data better than forecast

TOKYO: Asian markets mostly rose Monday after the release of improved Japanese manufacturing and trade data that suggest activity is picking up in the world's third biggest economy. Looking ahead, attention is likely to focus this week on Friday's report of US growth data.

Keeping Score: Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.3 percent to 17,234.42 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 23,481.02. The Shanghai Composite index gained 1.2 percent to 3,126.71 and South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.5 percent to 2,042.92. India's Sensex edged 0.1 percent higher to 28,114.23, while Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 5,408.50. Markets in Southeast Asia and Taiwan were mostly higher.

Analyst Viewpoint: "The highlight of the week will no doubt come from US 3Q GDP," Chris Weston of IG said in a commentary. "Keep in mind that growth has averaged around 1 percent in the past three quarters, so a snap back to the consensus estimate of 2.5 percent would be welcomed," he wrote. The Bureau of Economic Analysis is due to issue its preliminary reading of GDP for July-September on Friday.

Japan Data: Japan posted a trade surplus of 498.3 billion yen ($4.8 billion) in September, compared with a deficit of 18.7 billion yen in August. While exports fell 6.9 percent from a year earlier, pulled lower by anemic demand for autos and machinery, that was better than the forecasts for a decline of more than 10 percent. Meanwhile, a preliminary survey of factory managers showed a fifth straight month of improvement in manufacturing sentiment and the measure for output rose for the first time since January.

Last Week's Finish: US stock indexes wavered between gains and losses and closed mostly lower on Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average edged 0.1 percent lower to 18,145.71, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index was nearly flat at 2,141.16. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.3 percent to 5,257.40. All indexes were slightly higher for the week. The Dow is now up 4.1 percent for the year, while the S&P 500 is up 4.8 percent. The Nasdaq is up 5 percent.

Energy: Benchmark US crude fell 25 cents to $50.60 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 22 cents to close at $50.85 a barrel in New York on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 18 cents to $51.60 a barrel. It gained 40 cents Friday to close at $51.78 a barrel in London.

Currencies: The dollar rose to 103.89 yen from 103.80 on Friday. The euro fell to $1.0875 from $1.0886.