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Asian Shares Rise, Sydney Hits Multi-Year High

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02/18/2013 | 02:45am CEST

--Japan stocks soar after G20 meeting

--Earnings help Australia hit fresh multi-year high

--Shanghai flat on first day trading in year of the snake

Asian markets were mostly higher Monday, with Japanese stocks surging after Japan avoided criticism over the weakening yen at the Group of Twenty meeting over the weekend, while strong earnings helped the Australian market touch a fresh multi-year high.

The Group of Twenty meeting, held in Moscow, ended with its members pledging to refrain from targeting their currency policies to gain a competitive advantage. Most significantly for Asia, Japan was not singled out for the recent volatility in the yen's exchange rate. The Japanese yen started to depreciate sharply late last year on expectations that the new government would implement aggressive monetary policy.

The G-20 meeting "doesn't seem to have done anything to prevent Japan from stimulating its economy," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney.

Elections in Italy, to be held on February 24th and 25th, are "probably the next big event on the horizon that might disrupt markets," said Mr. Oliver, adding that the worry is that no single party wins a strong mandate or a victory by Silvio Berlusconi could put a halt to Italy's reform agenda.

The U.S. dollar strengthened against the yen, and was recently at Y94.11 compared with Y93.51 late Friday in New York.

The latest data from the International Monetary Market suggests a decrease in enthusiasm for shorting the yen. Non-commercial short positions on the yen against the U.S. dollar decreased for the second straight week, with 61,306 contracts as of February 12th, compared to 68,413 a week before.

The weaker yen gave Japanese stocks a strong start, with the Nikkei Stock Average up 2.3%.

Banks and real estate firms led gains with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rising 4.9% and real estate firm Mitsui Fudosan adding 3.4%. Exporters were also higher with Honda Motor climbing 2.5% and Toyota Motor Corp. gaining 2.4%.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.5% at 5059.20 after hitting a fresh four-and-a-half year high of 5070.5 earlier Monday.

The market was helped by more strong earnings reports, which extended Australia's positive reporting season. Bluescope Steel, the country's largest steelmaker by market value, jumped 16.2% after reporting a smaller loss in the first half of the fiscal year, benefiting from a restructuring that included more than 1,800 job cuts.

Bendigo & Adelaide Bank advanced 3.3% after releasing better-than-expected results, while packaging company Amcor, climbed 3.1% after releasing its interim report.

The reporting season will continue in Australia, with more major companies due to release results this week including BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum and QBE Insurance Group.

Stocks in mainland China were flat on the first day of trading in the year of the snake with the Shanghai Composite Index just one point higher, after closing for a week long public holiday. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index, which started trading again last Thursday, was down 0.4%.

South Korea's Kospi Composite fell 0.3%.

Write to Daniel Inman at daniel.inman@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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