Asia stocks higher, with Nikkei at new 15-year highs

Asian markets mostly rose on the first trading day of the Year of the Sheep, buoyed by a bailout deal between Greece and the euro zone last week. However, trading volumes remain light with China, Taiwan and Vietnam still closed for the Chinese New Year holiday. Wall Street set the positive mood by closing at highs last Friday after Greek and euro zone finance ministers agreed to extend the country’s financial rescue by four months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) closed up 0.9 percent, while both the S&P 500 (^GSPC) and Nasdaq (^IXIC) finished 0.6 percent higher. However, there are analysts who remain cautious, saying the Greek crisis may not be “out of the woods yet.” “[Greece] has until today to submit their list of reforms to the Europeans so there’s still anxiety in the markets about whether the list will satisfy the Germans. [Bailout extension] is a positive signal but there’s more to come,” Clive McDonnell, head of Equity Strategy at Standard Chartered, told CNBC Asia’s ” Squawk Box .” Nikkei jumps 0.8% Japan’s key Nikkei 225 (Nihon Kenzai Shinbun: .N225) index hit fresh 15-year highs for the third consecutive session on Monday, as the yen continued to trade in the 119 territory.

Among blue-chip exporter stocks, Mitsubishi Electric (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6503.T-JP) and Toyota Motor (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7203.T-JP) piled on 1 percent, while Sony (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6758.T-JP), Canon (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7751.T-JP) and Toshiba (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6502.T-JP) made gains between 0.3 to 0.5 percent each. Airbag maker Takata (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 7312.T-JP) underperformed the bourse with a slump of nearly 3 percent, after being slapped with a $ 14,000 per day fine by U.S. regulators for failing to fully cooperate with a probe into its faulty airbags, which have been linked to six deaths and dozens of injuries. Fanuc (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6954.T-JP) also fell 1.5 percent after activist investor Dan Loeb says the announcement of a 130 billion yen capital expenditure plan isn’t enough to fix the robot maker’s “blatant capital inefficiency.” Meanwhile, three members of the Bank of Japan’s policy board expressed doubts the central bank can meet its inflation target due to falling oil prices, minutes from the BOJ’s last policy meeting showed.

Read More Hyperinflation… in Japan? ASX adds 0.5% Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX 200 index widened gains in early trade, remaining in sight of a seven-year high, with market attention squarely on corporate earnings releases.

Boart Longyear (ASX:BLY-AU) halved its full year loss to $ 333 million, but warns its earnings remain under pressure. Shares of the world’s biggest supplier of mine drilling services rocketed nearly 10 percent. Construction group Lend Lease (ASX:LLC-AU) bounced 0.5 percent after posting a 25 percent improvement on its profits in the six months to December 31, supported by a positive residential housing market. Among other companies reporting earnings, miner Bluescope Steel (ASX:BSL-AU) was the underperformer, down nearly 10 percent, despite delivering a 62 percent jump in its underlying half-year profit on the back of a weaker Australian dollar (Exchange:AUD=) and stronger steel margins. A better-than-expected 48 percent rise in annual profit also failed to boost Caltex Australia (ASX:CTX-AU), which dropped 0.8 percent.

Read More Japan pines for Australia’s yields STI flat Singapore shares traded flat ahead of its inflation data for January at 1300 SIN/HK. The consumer price index (CPI) probably fell 0.3 percent from a year earlier for the third straight month, according to a Reuters poll, due to lower oil prices and transportation costs. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver the 2015 budget statement in the Parliament at 1530 SIN/HK, with analysts expecting it to be a ” people’s budget .” Meanwhile, markets may keep an eye on news that Singapore’s founding father and former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has been hospitalized for severe pneumonia over the past two weeks. According to a government statement on Saturday, the 91-year-old’s condition has since stabilized. Rest of Asia Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: .HSI) index was the laggard of the region on Monday, slipping 0.5 percent in early trade. Shares of HSBC (London Stock Exchange: HSBA-GB) notched down 0.4 percent ahead of the release of fourth-quarter results Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi (Korea Stock Exchange: .KS11) index trimmed gains to 0.4 percent, after hitting a two-and-a-half-month opening high on its first day of trade after being shut since last Wednesday. Among index heavyweights, Samsung Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) climbed 0.4 percent on news that it would buy U.S.-based mobile wallet provider LoopPay. Lotte Group, the country’s fifth largest conglomerate, said over the weekend it was picked as the preferred bidder for KT Rental. Shares of Lotte Shopping (Korea Stock Exchange: 2353-KR) elevated 3.6 percent while Lotte Chemical gained 1.7 percent.

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