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Asian Shares Pare Gains To End Mixed

asian mixed 27mar20 lt

Asian stocks pared early gains to end on a mixed note on Friday as worries about an impending global recession offset investor optimism over U.S. stimulus and a pledge by G20 countries to inject $5 trillion into the global economy to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

China's Shanghai Composite Index pared early gains to close 7.29 points, or 0.3 percent, higher at 2,772.20 after data showed profits at Chinese industrial firms slumped in the first two months of the year to their lowest in at least a decade. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 131.94 points, or 6 percent, to 23,484.28.

Chinese industrial profits plunged by 38.3 percent during the January to February period compared to the same period last year, as the coronavirus epidemic weighed heavily on economic activity, data published by the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

Japanese shares gained ground amid reports that the government is drawing up a fresh economic package worth $135 billion or more to aid people and businesses bearing the brunt of the global coronavirus outbreak.

The Nikkei 225 Index rallied 724.83 points, or 3.9 percent, to 19,389.43 after falling as much as 4.5 percent in the previous session. For the week, the index surged 17.1 percent, logging its biggest weekly gain ever.

The broader Topix index closed 4.3 percent higher at 1,459.49 on the back of massive buying by passive investors.

Semiconductor-related companies led the surge, with Tokyo Electron climbing 5.1 percent and Shin-Etsu Chemical adding 6.1 percent after U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology reported better than expected quarterly results.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group jumped 2.9 percent after losing more than 9 percent the previous day on a Moody's downgrade.

Overall consumer prices in the Tokyo region of Japan were up 0.4 percent year-on-year in March, the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said in a report. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent and was unchanged from the February reading.

Core CPI, which excludes volatile food prices, also advanced an annual 0.4 percent - in line with expectations and down from 0.5 percent in the previous month.

Australian markets reversed course to end sharply lower, following three days of gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index plunged 270.90 points, or 5.3 percent, to 4,842.40, while the broader All Ordinaries Index plummeted 261.00 points, or 5.1 percent, at 4,874.20.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 3-5 percent, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group lost 8.8 percent. The big four banks dropped 6-7 percent. In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum shed 6.4 percent after lowering its earnings outlook for fiscal 2020. Santos plummeted 10 percent and Beach Energy tumbled 5 percent.

Supermarket chain Woolworths Group lost 5.3 percent. The company said it would create 20,000 new jobs to meet a surge in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. Rival Coles Group declined 5 percent.

Seoul stocks rose sharply after a series of hefty global stimulus measures to tackle the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The benchmark Kospi surged up 31.49 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,717.73.

In economic news, consumer confidence in South Korea tanked in March, the Bank of Korea said after its monthly index tumbled 18.5 points to a reading of 78.4.

New Zealand shares fell to snap a three-day rally in choppy trading. The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 75.74 points, or 0.8 percent, to 9,556.73. Utilities bore the brunt of the selling as higher bond yields reduced the attraction of companies that pay reliable dividends.

Overnight, U.S. stocks extended gains for a third straight day as the Senate finally voted to approve a massive $2 trillion stimulus package and the Fed said it is working hard to support the economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Investors shrugged off a report showing that U.S. jobless claims surged by the most on record last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked 6.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 5.6 percent and the S&P 500 jumped 6.2 percent.

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