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Asian Shares Mixed; Chinese Markets Rally Amid Policy Support

stockmarkets aug16 17feb20 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday as coronavirus worries persisted and Chinese policymakers ramped up support for the economy and companies that have been hit by a slump in sales and activity.

Chinese stocks rose sharply amid expectations the government will unveil more fiscal stimulus measures to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rallied 66.61 points, or 2.28 percent, to 2,983.62 after the People's Bank of China cut rates on its medium-term loans, paving the way for a reduction in the country's benchmark loan prime rate. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.52 percent to 27,959.60.

On Friday, China's securities watchdog loosened refinancing rules for listed firms to help them fight the coronavirus epidemic.

Japanese stocks hit a 1-1/2-week low after the release of weak GDP and industrial production data. The Nikkei average dropped 164.35 points, or 0.69 percent, to 23,523.24, its lowest closing since Feb. 5.

The broader Topix index closed 0.89 percent lower at 1,687.77, a 1-1/2-week low, with air transport, food and metal product companies pacing the declines.

Kirin Holdings slumped 7.7 percent after the brewer posted disappointed results for the year ended December and opposed a U.K.-based activist's proposal to buy treasury shares worth 600 billion yen.

Nissan Motor lost 2.1 percent to hit its lowest level in nearly 11 years, extending losses from the previous session after its French partner Renault posted its first annual loss in a decade on lower sales.

Japan's gross domestic product was down an annualized 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, the Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report. That was well shy of expectations for a decline 3.8 percent following the 0.5 percent increase in the three months prior.

On a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, GDP sank 1.6 percent - again missing forecasts for a decline of 1.0 percent following the 0.1 percent gain in the third quarter.

Japan industrial production rose at a softer pace in December, than in the initial estimate, final data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revealed.

Industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent month-on-month in December. In the initial estimate, production increased 1.3 percent.

Australian markets fluctuated before finishing marginally lower. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 ended down 5.10 points at 7,125.10, snapping four consecutive sessions of gains. The broader All Ordinaries index slid 5.90 points to 7,221.20.

Banks fell after rising sharply last week. Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 1.7 percent while the other three banks ended with modest losses. General insurer QBE Insurance Group soared 4.3 percent after its annual profit grew 41 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended on a mixed note while energy stocks such as Beach Energy and Woodside Petroleum gained 1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Takeover target Caltex Australia surged 3.9 percent after Canadian convenience giant Alimentation Couche-Tard gained full access to its books.

Gold producer Saracen Mineral Holdings advanced 1.9 percent and Regis Resources climbed 2.8 percent after posting strong half-yearly results.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank shares entered a trading halt ahead of a share placement. Brambles rallied 3.9 percent after the logistics firm projected full-year earnings growth of about 5 percent.

Seoul stocks ended a choppy session little changed with a negative bias as the death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China reached 1,770 as of the end of Sunday, up by 105 from the previous day,

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains after falling for two consecutive sessions. The benchmark NZX-50 index edged up 39.15 points, or 0.33 percent, to 11,873.98.

The services sector in New Zealand continued to expand in January, and at a sharply higher rate, the latest survey from BusinessNZ revealed with a Performance of Services Index score of 57.1. That's up from the upwardly revised 52.1 in December (originally 51.9).

Singapore's Straits Times index was down 0.2 percent. A government report showed that the country's non-oil domestic exports dropped 3.3 percent year-on-year in January, after a 2.4 percent rise in December.

U.S. stocks ended narrowly mixed on Friday but posted weekly gains as concerns over the coronavirus impact eased.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.1 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite edged up around 0.2 percent after the release of a mixed batch of retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment data.

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