Japan's Nikkei at 15-year high

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Japan’s Nikkei share index closed at a 15-year high after data showed Japan’s trade deficit more than halved in January, due to lower oil prices and a strong rise in exports.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.37% to close at 18,267.39 points.

The trade deficit shrank to 1.2tn yen ($ 9.9bn; £6.4bn) from 2.8tn yen a year earlier, which beat market forecasts.

Japanese exports rose by 17% in January from a year earlier, marking the fifth straight month of increases.

Asia’s second-largest economy is benefiting from the effect of the weakened yen, which has led to higher shipments of cars and electronics to other parts of the world.

Imports fell by 9%, helped by a fall in global oil and gas prices.

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.2% lower at 5,904.20 points after falling commodity prices hit mining and energy-related stocks.

The rest of Asia is mostly closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, with China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam markets all shut.

Monetary policy

Sentiment was also lifted on Monday after the Federal Reserve indicated interest rates will be kept on hold for longer.

The US central bank released the minutes of its January meeting, with investors looking for signs that policymakers may raise interest rates for the first time since 2006.

Fed officials said the stronger US dollar and concerns about the stability of the eurozone meant they were more inclined to keep borrowing costs near zero for a longer time.

Japan’s central bank also kept its monetary policy unchanged when they met on Wednesday.

The Bank of Japan said the economy is recovering moderately and indicated no change to their massive stimulus programme.

Investors now turn their eyes towards Greece, with hopes it can secure a fresh bailout deal with its creditors by the end of the week.

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