Asia Pacific stocks rise as Japan leads gains; China’s August manufacturing activity slightly misses expectations

Markets in Asia Pacific were higher in Monday morning trade, with Japan stocks leading gains as investors monitor political developments in the country.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher in early trade, with the Shanghai composite up 0.65% while the Shenzhen component gained 0.415%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.5%.

China announced Monday that manufacturing activity expanded in August. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for that month came in at 51.0, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That was below expectations of a reading of 51.2 by analysts in a Reuters poll.

PMI readings above 50 signify expansion while those below that mark represent contraction. The readings are sequential and indicate on-month expansion or contraction. Chinese economic data has been watched by investors for clues on the state of the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 1.9% while the Topix index advanced 1.81%, after losses on Friday as longstanding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a surprise resignation on Friday due to health reasons. Developments in Japanese politics continued to be watched by investors on Monday, as the search for the country’s new prime minister continues.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.53 per dollar, after strengthening sharply from levels above 106.5 against the greenback late last week.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.39%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia added 0.28%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.56% higher.

Japanese trading firm stocks jump

In corporate developments, shares of Japanese trading firms Mitubishi Corp., Itochu Corp., Marubeni Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Sumitomo Corp. soared in Monday morning trade after Warren Buffett announced that his firm Berkshire Hathaway has acquired a slightly more than 5% stake in the companies.

Shares of Mitsubishi jumped 10.31% while Itochu gained 5.57%. Marubeni soared 12.41% and Mitsui gained 8.36%, Sumitomo rose 10.4%.

The situation surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will also likely be watched by investors, with data from Johns Hopkins University showing the number of reported Covid-19 cases worldwide surpassing 25 million. India, among the countries with the highest number of reported virus cases, recently registered the biggest single-day spike globally since the pandemic began, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 92.353 after seeing levels above 93.2 last week.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7357 after rising from levels below $0.726 last week.

Oil prices were higher in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.55% to $46.06 per barrel. U.S. crude futures added 0.33% to $43.11 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Huileng Tan contributed to this report.