China shares shrug off weak trade data

Shipping containers being loaded onto trucks from a cargo ship at Tianjin port in China Image copyright FREDERIC J. BROWN

Chinese stock markets have risen, shrugging off fresh government data that showed exports fell by more than expected in February.

Exports dropped sharply, falling by 25.4% from a year earlier, while imports slid 13.8%.

However, analysts said the data may have been negatively affected by Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

The Shanghai Composite closed the day 0.1% up at 2,901.39, after earlier falling 1.6% in reaction to the data.

However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished lower, down 0.7% at 20,011.58.

Elsewhere, markets across the region were largely in negative territory, despite an oil price rise overnight and a positive lead from Wall Street.

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Image caption Shares in Japan lost more than 1% in earlier trade, despite some surprising economic numbers

Oil recovery

Brent crude rose above $40 a barrel for the first time this year, while the price of iron ore also shot up, rising almost 20% due in part to a surge in demand for the metal from China's refineries.

Shares in Japan fell, as a stronger yen against the dollar weighed on investor sentiment and hurt some of Japan's big exporters.

Toyota shares finished the session down 1.7%, Honda fell 0.95% and Nissan dipped about 2.5%.

Japan's Nikkei 225 ended Tuesday down 0.8% to 16,783.15, marking its lowest close since the beginning of the month.

Fresh official figures showed the world's third-largest economy shrank less than previously thought in the last three months of 2015.

Gross domestic product contracted at an annualised rate of 1.1% for the period, compared with an earlier reading of 1.4%.

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Image caption Commodity related stocks dragged on the Australian market despite a near 20% rise in the price of iron ore

The annualised numbers surprised analysts, who had been expecting to see a contraction of 1.5%.

Elsewhere, commodity and energy-related stocks were dragging on the Australian market, despite the price rises in oil and iron ore.

Sydney-listed shares in Fortescue Metals finished the day down 9.5% after rising by almost 24% on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australia's Fortescue said it had entered "a non-binding memorandum of understanding" with Brazil's Vale.

The proposal could help the two companies match the quality of iron ore produced by rival Rio Tinto, which is seen as the benchmark in China.

The Australian mining giant said the agreement would provide "a framework for potential investment by Vale in Fortescue, through a minority acquisition of shares on market, in addition to investment in current or future mining assets".

Rio Tinto shares lost more than 2.5% in Sydney trade.

In South Korea, the Kospi index finished down 0.6% at 1,946.09.

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