Asia report: Markets higher amid wave of data
Markets in Asia cheered in the start of the second quarter on Thursday, with most bourses rising, although fresh data out of China showed a slowdown in growth for its manufacturing sector.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.72% at 29,388.87, as the yen weakened 0.09% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 110.82.
Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing slipped 0.19%, while among the benchmark’s other major components, robotics specialist Fanuc was up 5.08% and technology giant SoftBank Group gained 0.65%.
The broader Topix index advanced 0.19% by the end of Tokyo’s trading session, settling at 1,967.64.
In fresh economic data, the large manufacturers index in the quarterly Tankan sentiment survey from the Bank of Japan was 5, higher than the nil expected by analysts polled by Reuters.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was 0.71% firmer at 3,466.33, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite added 1.11% to 2,242.19.
China’s unofficial Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for March came in at 50.6 for March, down from the 50.9 reading in February.
It was still above the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction, and contrasted to the official manufacturing PMI on Wednesday, which expanded to 51.9 in March from 50.6 in the prior month.
South Korea’s Kospi was ahead 0.85% at 3,087.40, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong leapt 1.97% to 28,938.74.
Around 50 companies were suspended from trading in the special administrative region, most of the small-cap stocks, with many putting the suspensions down to delays in their annual results.
A number of them put the delays down to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It came after more than 380 Hong Kong-listed stocks failed to publish their annual results by 31 March last year, but were not suspended from trading as rules were relaxed, allowing them to publish unaudited information instead.
Those rules were not in place this year, however.
Seoul’s blue-chip technology stocks were in the green, with Samsung Electronics up 1.84% and SK Hynix rocketing 6.04%.
“It seems investors are very much of the mind that it is still worth backing companies that will benefit from the reopening of the global economy, despite the negative backdrop of France closing schools in its third lockdown and Brazil still struggling to get Covid under control,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.
“Asian markets were certainly in fine form, including in Hong Kong where investors flocked to own shares in technology and healthcare stocks.
“Deliveroo’s initial public offering might have been a flop in the UK, but investors were hungry for fellow food ordering platform owner Meituan, whose Hong Kong-listed shares jumped nearly 9%.”
Oil prices were higher as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last down 1.9% at $63.93 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate falling 2.15% to $60.43.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.56% firmer at 6,828.70, as the country’s retail sales fell a seasonally-adjusted 0.8% month-on-month in February, slightly better than Reuters-polled expectations for a 1.1% contraction.
Discretionary retail plays were on the back foot after the news, with furniture and electricals name Harvey Norman down 1.57% and technology chain JB Hi-Fi off 1.49%.
The country’s trade surplus, meanwhile, totalled AUD 7.53bn in February, falling short of market forecasts for a figure of around AUD 9.7bn.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 was the region’s odd one out, slipping 0.58% to 12,488.31, led lower by film technology company Vista Group International, which slid 3.6%.
The down under dollars were both weaker against the greenback, with the Aussie last down 0.22% at AUD 1.3224, and the Kiwi retreating 0.22% at NZD 1.4838.