Asian Shares Eke Out Mild Gains

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Monday, although the upside remained limited on concerns about an escalation in the U.S.-China trade war after top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that a Dec. 15 deadline is still in place to impose a new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods.

Chinese shares ended little changed with a positive bias after the release of November trade data. Hong Kong shares finished marginally lower.

China's exports shrank for the fourth consecutive month in November, although imports came in better than expected, suggesting that Beijing's stimulus efforts are working.

Japanese shares rose for a third straight session as investors awaited key central bank meetings and the U.K. election. The Nikkei average edged up by 76.30 points, or 0.33 percent, to 23,430.70 while the broader Topix index closed 0.51 percent higher at 1,722.07.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group climbed 1.2 percent while oil-linked Japan Petroleum and Inpex surged 3-4 percent. Exporters ended mixed, with Panasonic surging 2.2 percent and Sony Corp rising 1.1 percent.

Japan's gross domestic product was bumped all the way up to a seasonally adjusted annualized 1.6 percent in the third quarter of 2019, a government report showed today. That was a sharp upward move from the 0.2 percent gain originally reported last month for Q3.

Another report showed that Japan had a current account surplus of 1,816.8 billion yen in October - exceeding expectations for 1,806.8 billion yen and up from 1,612.9 billion in September.

Australian markets eked out modest gains after data showed surprise strength in the U.S. jobs market. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose by 23 points, or 0.34 percent, to 6,730 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 22.90 points, or 0.34 percent, at 6,836.40.

Energy stocks led the surge, with Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Santos rising around 2 percent as oil prices held near 12-week highs.

Viva Energy Group slumped 6.6 percent after warning it expects fiscal 2019 underlying net profit to fall by up to 41 percent due to weak refining margins.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto climbed around 2 percent while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3.4 percent. Gold miner Evolution gained 2.3 percent and Newcrest added 2.5 percent.

Administrative services provider Mcmillan Shakespeare plunged 7.5 percent after it flagged tougher market conditions.

Seoul stocks gained ground despite North Korea conducting a "very important test" at a long-range missile launch site. The Kospi index edged up 6.80 points, or 0.33 percent, to 2,088.65. U.S. President Donald Trump warned Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he acts in a hostile way.

New Zealand shares ended lower, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending down 46.61 points, or 0.41 percent, at 11,229.59. Shares of diary giant A2 Milk Company tumbled 3.6 percent after its Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka unexpectedly stepped down from the role.

The value of manufacturing sales in New Zealand was up a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent sequentially in the third quarter of 2019 after dipping 0.7 percent in the three months prior, official data showed today.

U.S. stocks rallied on Friday after the latest jobs data topped expectations and a measure of consumer sentiment hit a seven-month high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 1 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.9 percent.

Non-farm payroll employment surged up by 266,000 jobs in November after climbing by an upwardly revised 156,000 jobs in October. The jobless rate edged down to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent in October.

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