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Asian Shares Mixed After Chinese Data

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Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Friday as Chinese trade data proved to be a mixed bag and investors awaited earnings reports from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo later in the day.

Geopolitical tensions eased somewhat after U.S. President Donald Trump urged caution on an imminent strike against Syria and also tweeted that the U.S. would rejoin the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact if the deal were substantially better than the one offered to former President Barack Obama.

China's Shanghai Composite index dropped 20.77 points or 0.65 percent to 3,159.39 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged down 22.90 points or 0.07 percent to 30,808.38.

Chinese exports declined unexpectedly in March, while imports grew more-than-expected, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

In dollar terms, exports fell 2.7 percent year-over-year in March, confounding economists' forecast for a notable increase of 11.8 percent. Imports surged 14.4 percent from a year ago, faster than the expected spike of 12.0 percent.

The trade deficit came in at $4.98 billion in March, in contrast to the expected surplus of $27.5 billion.

Japanese shares closed higher to post third week of gains as higher U.S. bond yields helped lift financials and exporters also surged on the back of a firmer dollar following Trump's comments on Syria and rejoining TPP.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 118.46 points or 0.55 percent to 21,778.74, taking the weekly gain to 1 percent. The broader Topix index closed 0.63 percent higher at 1,729.36.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rallied 2.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial jumped 2 percent on the back of rising U.S. bond yields. Exporter Honda Motor gained 1 percent and Panasonic advanced 2.5 percent. Tech stocks also gained ground, with Advantest and TDK Corp climbing 2-3 percent.

Australian shares closed modestly higher amid broad-based gains as fears linked to geopolitical tensions eased. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 13.60 points or 0.23 percent to 5,829.10 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 0.22 percent at 5,924.70.

Resource stocks outperformed, with Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group rising about 2 percent each.

Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac fell between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent while energy stocks ended on a mixed note. Oil Search rose 0.4 percent and Beach Energy advanced 1.8 percent, but Woodside Petroleum dropped half a percent and Santos lost 1 percent.

Seoul stocks rose on the back of foreign buying on hopes for improved corporate earnings. The benchmark Kospi gained 12.36 points or 0.51 percent to finish at 2,455.07. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 1.6 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 10.55 points or 0.13 percent to finish at 8,414.77. Fletcher Building shares jumped as much as 8.6 percent after reports that Wesfarmers has bought a stake of about 3-4 percent in the company.

Activity in New Zealand's manufacturing sector continued to expand in March, albeit at a slower pace, BusinessNZ said with a seasonally adjusted PMI score of 52.2, down from 53.3 in February.

Singapore's Straits Times index was climbing 1 percent. The country's GDP grew an annual 4.3 percent in the first quarter, faster than the 3.6 percent growth seen in the fourth quarter, the advance estimate from the Ministry of Trade and Industry showed.

Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority of Singapore tightened its monetary policy, signaling an appreciation in the Singapore dollar going forward.

The central bank decided to increase slightly the slope of the S$NEER policy band, from zero percent previously, with the width of the policy band and the level at which it was centered unchanged.

India's Sensex was rising 0.4 percent as investors digested positive macro data and looked ahead to Infosys' earnings for directional cues.

Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index and Malaysia's KLSE Composite were down around 0.3 percent while the Taiwan Weighted rose marginally.

U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight, with banks and technology stocks leading the surge as President Donald Trump sought to downplay concerns about an attack on Syria, saying an attack may not be imminent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 1.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.8 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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