Asian Shares Mixed After Chinese Data

stockmarkets jan18 15jul21 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as investors reacted to dovish commentary from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and new data from China suggesting the country's growth rebound is steadying.

Chinese shares rallied as a slew of economic data alleviated concerns over a notable slowdown. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 36.09 points, or 1 percent, to 3,564.59, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 208.81 points, or 0.8 percent, at 27,996.27.

China's GDP grew 7.9 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics said, shy of expectations for a gain of 8.1 percent and down sharply from 18.3 percent in the three months prior.

On a quarterly basis, GDP gained 1.3 percent - beating forecasts for 1.2 percent and up from 0.6 percent in the previous three months.

Industrial production climbed an annual 8.3 percent in June, exceeding expectations for 7.8 percent but down from 8.8 percent in May.

Fixed asset investment jumped an annual 12.6 percent, also beating forecasts for 12.1 percent and slowing from 15.4 percent in the previous month.

Retail sales expanded 12.1 percent year-on-year, beating expectations for 11.0 percent after rising 12.4 percent in May. The jobless rate held steady at 5.0 percent.

Japanese shares tumbled as investors awaited earnings and kept a wary eye on a surge in COVID-19 cases just one week out from the 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

The Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 329.40 points, or 1.2 percent, to 28,279.09, while the broader Topix ended 1.2 percent lower at 1,939.61.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group declined 1.2 percent. Uniqlo clothing brand owner Fast Retailing dropped 1.1 percent as the company lowered its profit forecast for the year, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sales.

Optical products company Nikon Corp. slumped 6.2 percent, while steelmakers Nippon Steel and JFE Holdings both rose about 1.7 percent. Automakers Honda Motor and Nissan Motor fell 1.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

Australian markets ended lower, with tech stocks taking a beating. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped 18.80 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 7,335.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 15.20 points, or 0.2 percent, at 7,616.60.

Buy now, pay later firm Afterpay fell 2.3 percent to extend losses from the previous session after news of expected competition from tech giants Apple and PayPal. Xero dropped 2.3 percent and Appen gave up 3.3 percent.

Woodside Petroleum lost 1 percent despite the country' top independent gas producer delivering 67 growth in quarterly sales revenues.

Mining giant Rio Tinto rallied 2.2 percent ahead of its quarterly production report, due on Friday. Gold miners Evolution, Newcrest and Regis Resources climbed 2-3 percent as gold prices hovered near four-week highs.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent in June. That was beneath expectations for 5.0 percent and down from 5.1 percent in May.

Seoul stocks advanced as the Bank of Korea decided to keep its benchmark lending rate unchanged at the record low 0.50 percent - in line with expectations. The benchmark Kospi rose 21.41 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,286.22.

Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol said the central bank will discuss raising its key interest rate beginning at its next meeting in August but noted that would still depend on COVID-19 developments.

New Zealand shares ended lower, a day after the country's central bank announced the end of its pandemic-induced bond-buying program. The benchmark NZX-50 Index dropped 48.52 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,671.16.

U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending narrowly mixed overnight as Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that "substantial further progress" towards the Fed's goals of maximum employment and price stability is "still a ways off" and that there will be "advance notice" before the Fed makes any changes to its asset purchase program.

His comments came as new data showed U.S. producer prices jumped by more than expected in June.

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