Asia markets opened higher on Monday, as traders eye key central bank meetings in the US and Japan due later in the week.
Australia's ASX 200 was up 0.56 percent in early trade, boosted by a 0.64 percent increase in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index. In South Korea, the Kospi was up 0.40 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.32 percent, with markets reacting to better-than-expected export data released before market open. Japan's exports for June fell 7.4 percent on-year, the ninth consecutive monthly fall, according to Reuters, but it was a better than the forecast of 11.6 percent drop from a Reuters poll of economists. In volume terms, exports rose 2.9 percent in June on-year, the first increase in four months, reported Reuters. Imports fell 18.8 percent on-year, slightly better than the forecast of 19.7 percent decline. The trade balance was at a surplus of 692.8 billion yen, compared with a 494.8 billion yen surplus expected, said Reuters. Investors will also be eyeing the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) two-day monetary policy meeting due to start on July 28, with markets expecting additional fiscal and monetary stimulus to jump-start the country's anemic growth. "Markets seems to have speculatively priced in the next couple of months of potential monetary and fiscal stimulus within a few weeks," said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at brokerage firm IG. Nicholson added there were some lingering doubts among investors that the BOJ could elect to stand pat on rates later this week, after the Bank of England and the European Central Bank chose to leave monetary policy unchanged earlier this month. On Friday, the Japanese yen, which had fallen to levels near 107.15 against the dollar on Thursday, spiked to the 106 handle after the BBC aired an interview with BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, where he ruled out the possibility of "helicopter money" - or essentially printing money and distributing payouts - to tackle deflation in Japan. The date the interview was conducted was not immediately clear, but the Wall Street Journal reported it had been recorded in mid-June. The yen traded at 106.42 early Monday morning. In company news, Nintendo shares plunged 14.64 percent in early trade, despite the continued popularity of the "Pokemon Go" app, which was finally launched in Japan last week. Since July 6, when the game was first rolled out in the US, Nintendo shares had more than doubled. Data from IHS Markit on Friday showed that despite the sudden spike in popularity for the stock, the amount of short positions in the stock - that is, investors making bets that the price will fall, - had tripled in just over a week, suggesting many market participants expect "Pokemon Go" will not be able to sustain Nintendo's current stock levels. Stateside, the US Federal Open Market Committee is due to start a two-day monetary policy meeting on July 26, with the market expecting the Fed to keep monetary policy steady. "We expect the Fed to leave rates on hold as it seeks to gain more confidence that US growth is back on track and that the impact from Brexit will be minimal," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital. Oliver added that he expected the Fed to "raise rates in a gradual and cautious fashion." The dollar was trading at 97.383 against a basket of currencies. The dollar had strengthened over the last two weeks from levels under 96, boosted by positive economic data stateside that appeared to indicate an upswing in momentum for the US economy. "There seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle of better US data, stronger US dollar and gains in the US markets," said Nicholson. On Friday, US stocks closed higher for the fourth straight week, with the S&P hitting a new record high.