Nikkei rises to 15-year high after strong export data

Japanese shares hit a fifteen-year high on Thursday following better-than-expected export data, while trade in the rest of Asia was quiet with several markets closed for Lunar New Year.

Markets in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were shut for the holiday.

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The release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting on Wednesday helped to lift sentiment in Asia. The minutes showed that the central bank will likely delay hiking interest rates to at least the second half of this year.

“The debate around rising rates continues and there is a clear understanding from the board as a whole that raising rates too soon would likely stifle the current growth trajectories…However, some are clearly concerned as waiting too long would likely lead to rampant inflation. The debate was left there and the consensus from the market is the doves are in control at the FOMC,” said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, in a note.

Meanwhile, traders also digested good news regarding Greece. The European Central Bank approved a 68 billion euro two-week extension on emergency liquidity for Greek banks, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The assistance comes as Greece tries to negotiate a financing deal with European partners or stick by the terms of its existing international bailout.

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