Asian markets trade up with Nikkei nearing 5-year high

SEOUL (AP) - Asian markets traded higher on Monday, with Tokyo stock markets heading close to a five-year high after a meeting of global finance leaders lent support to Japan's aggressive monetary policy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.9 per cent to 13,574.71 after a statement by finance ministers and central bank presidents from the world's biggest economies appeared to give its blessing to aggressive credit-easing moves pushed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying they were intended to stop prolonged deflation and support domestic demand.

Japan's programme has driven the value of the yen down by more than 20 per cent against the dollar since October.

On Monday, the first trading day after the G-20 meeting, the dollar was 0.3 per cent higher at 99.78 yen. The last time it was above 100 yen was in April 2009.

The decline of the yen has stirred up concerns among Japanese exporters' key rivals, such as the US and South Korea that Japan's real goal is to weaken the yen as a way to gain trade advantages.

But officials at the G-20 meeting were reluctant to voice any opposition to the Bank of Japan's monetary stimulus program.

Japanese officials said they were pleased with the support they had received at the Washington meetings for their aggressive efforts to lift the world's third largest economy out of a two-decade slump.

"There has been international understanding" of our efforts, Mr Haruhiko Kuroda, head of the Bank of Japan, told reporters at the end of the meeting.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi added 0.5 per cent to 1,916.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down less than 0.1 per cent to 22,001.27. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 per cent to 4,949. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Indonesia also advanced while shares in mainland China fell.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 45 cents to US$88.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 28 cents to close at US$88.01 on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to US$1.3075 from US$1.3059 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 99.80 yen from 99.65 yen.

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