Asian Shares Rise As Lockdowns Ease

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Asian stocks rose on Monday as higher commodity prices and optimism about a gradual reopening of businesses around the world helped investors shrug off fears of a renewed trade row between the United States and China.

Chinese shares posted modest gains after data showed home prices rose in April, helping offset renewed trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index inched up 6.96 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,875.42, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.58 percent to 23,934.77.

Japanese shares gained ground after data showed coronavirus infections slowed in the country.

Osaka Prefecture on May 17 reported no new novel coronavirus infections for the first time since March 9, while two other special alert prefectures Chiba and Kyoto also reported no new cases.

The daily number of new cases in Tokyo dropped to five on Sunday, the lowest since the capital was placed under a state of emergency on April 7, raising optimism that the government would soon ease restrictions.

The Nikkei average gained 96.26 points, or 0.48 percent, to 20,133.73, while the broader Topix index closed 0.38 percent higher at 1,459.29.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group rose over 1 percent after its board approved a second 500 billion-yen tranche of share purchases and the company said that Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma will resign from its board.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group jumped 3.5 percent after its annual
net profit overtook that of rivals Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group for the first time.

Chipmaking-related stocks succumbed to selling pressure after the Philadelphia semiconductor index lost 2.2 percent on Friday amid increasing tensions between the United States and China, the world's two-largest economies.

Advantest plunged 4.3 percent, Tokyo Electron tumbled 3.7 percent and Screen Holdings lost as much as 13.7 percent.

Investors shrugged off data showing that the Japanese economy slipped into a recession in the first quarter.

The Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report that Japan's gross domestic product shrank a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent sequentially in the first quarter of 2020.

That exceeded expectations for a 1.2 percent drop following the 1.8 percent decline in the previous three months.

On an annualized basis, GDP was down 3.4 percent - but that again beat forecasts for a fall of 4.6 percent following the downwardly revised 7.3 percent contraction in the three months prior (originally -7.1 percent).

Australian markets rose sharply as the government implements a three-step plan to gradually remove baseline restrictions and make the country Covid-safe.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 55.70 points, or 1.03 percent, to 5,460.50, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 64.70 points, or 1.18 percent, at 5,557.50.

Gold miners Northern Star Resources, Evolution Mining and Newcrest rallied 4-7 percent after gold prices extended gains to a fourth session on Friday on renewed Sino-U.S. tensions.

Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto jumped 5-6 percent after China iron ore futures scaled a 9-1/2-month peak on Friday

Energy companies such as Beach Energy, Oil Search and Santos gained 4-6 percent, while in the healthcare sector, CSL advanced 1.5 percent Ramsay Health Care surged 3.1 percent.

National Australia Bank fell 1.9 percent. The lender said its customer support team will start check-ins with customers on about 80,000 home loans who have received a repayment pause to help them through the impact of Covid-19.

Elders soared almost 10 percent after the agribusiness and property group reported a half-year net profit that surged from last year, helped by its acquisition of wholesaler Australian Independent Rural Retailers.

Seoul stocks closed higher aided by hopes of global stimulus measures. The benchmark Kospi rose by 9.83 points, or 0.51 percent, to 1,937.11. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics rallied 2 percent while consumer electronics giant LG Electronics gained 3.7 percent.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains, with the benchmark NZX 50 index ending up by 27.26 points, or 0.25 percent, at 10,757.94 as more countries eased lockdown restrictions. Shares of electricity generator Meridian Energy gained 2 percent.

Singapore's Straits Times index was up over 1 percent after data showed the country's non-oil domestic exports increased unexpectedly in April.

Non-oil domestic exports increased 9.7 percent year-on-year in April, confounding expectations for a decline of 5 percent. Nonetheless, the pace of growth eased from 17.6 percent logged in March.

U.S. stocks edged higher on Friday as a continued rise in oil prices helped offset dismal retail sales and industrial production data for April as well as intensifying U.S.-China trade tensions.

After the White House moved to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, Chinese state media Global Times tweeted that Beijing was working out a move to put a swathe of U.S companies such as Qualcomm, Cisco and Apple in an "unreliable entity list"

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.4 percent.

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