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Tokyo stocks close up after GDP beats expectations

Tokyo stocks closed higher on Monday, with investors putting trade worries on the back burner after data showed Japan's economy grew in the first quarter, defying expectations.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.24 percent, or 51.64 points, to 21,301.73 while the broader Topix index edged up 0.04 percent, or 0.67 points, to 1,554.92.

Tokyo stocks opened higher after government data showed the world's third-largest economy grew 0.5 percent in the January-March quarter despite expectations for a mild contraction.

However, investors remained concerned about the US-China trade row and were also watching talks on threatened US auto tariffs, said Makoto Sengoku, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

"But they consider these trade issues as neutral for now, after the GDP data," he told AFP.

Stocks were also being supported by local media reports that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may call a snap general election to coincide with an upper house election due this summer, Sengoku said.

"If that is true, we'd expect the government will compile an economic package" to tempt voters, he said.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced a six-month delay in imposing steep tariffs on auto imports, seeking to maintain the pressure on Europe and Japan for trade concessions.

A report by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concluded that America's shrinking share of the auto market jeopardised its research, development and manufacturing -- all "vital to national security", according to Trump.

Japan's Toyota, which has factories and research centres in the United States, issued a strongly worded statement.

"Today's proclamation sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued," it read.

"If import quotas are imposed, the biggest losers will be consumers who will pay more and have fewer vehicle choices."

Toyota shares rose 0.38 percent to 6,527 yen.

Nissan fell 1.31 percent to 770.1 yen after the crisis-hit carmaker shook up its executive board Friday and added a top director from partner Renault.

Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan's domestic partner, rose 0.83 percent to 485 yen after the firm announced Osamu Masuko would resign from the post of chief executive.

Financial stocks were higher, with Mitsubishi UFJ rising 0.47 percent to 504.4 yen.

The dollar firmed to 110.21 yen in Asian afternoon trade from 110.02 yen in New York on Friday.