Asia Nudges Higher as Bitcoin Futures Debut

Asian markets edged higher in Monday trade as investors focused their attention on the launch of bitcoin futures, and an upcoming U.S. Federal Reserve meeting slated for this week.

The Nikkei 225 gained 127.65 points, or 0.6%, to 22,938.73

The Hang Seng Index leaped 325.44 points, or 1.1%, to 28,965.29

In Japan, tech shares provided a mixed picture, with Sony falling 1.8% and SoftBank Group higher by 0.8%.

Shares of construction company Obayashi Corporation were down 7.2%. The move followed media reports that prosecutors suspected the company was involved in bid-rigging.

Hong Kong was buoyed by strong performances from casinos, energy-related plays and financials. Wynn Macau advanced 5% and HSBC Holdings added 2%.

In Korea, automakers and some tech stocks declined. Hyundai Motor fell 5.4 and Samsung Electronics was off by 0.4%.

Samsung Heavy Industries announced Joonou Nam would be the shipbuilder's new CEO following the resignation of its last chief executive. Shares closed down 1.3% after plunging some 10% earlier.

In Australia, major miners rose following better-than-expected trade data out of China in the previous session: Rio Tinto added 0.4% and BHP was 0.1% higher.

Elsewhere, bitcoin jumped as futures of the digital currency began trade Sunday evening U.S. time. The cryptocurrency traded at $16,587.84 U.S. late morning local time, according to data from Coindesk. Meanwhile, the January contract for bitcoin futures cracked the $18,000 level after opening trade at $15,460 U.S.

Bitcoin has seen a more than 1,600 percent jump since the start of the year and topped $16,700 U.S. per token as of Dec. 7 — although at least one exchange had seen the price exceed $19,000.

Among other major currencies, the Japanese yen firmed, trading at 113.42 to the U.S. dollar. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7531 U.S. and the euro last traded at $1.1785.

The New Zealand dollar rallied after the country's finance minister Grant Robertson said in a statement that Adrian Orr will take over as governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The currency was up by more than 1% to a two-week high of $0.6922 to the U.S. dollar.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 gained 66.12 points, or 1.7%, to 4,069.50

In Korea, the Kospi index moved up 7.49 points, or 0.3%, to 2,471.49

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index moved higher 74.47 points, or 0.7%, to 10,473.09

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index heightened 35.81 points, or 1.1%, to 3,460.45

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 added 42.42 points, or 0.5%, to 8,277.51

In Australia, the ASX 200 inched up 3.92 points, or 0.1%, to 5,998.28