Asian markets mixed as China’s economy jumps more than expected

Big 5

Asian markets were mixed in Wednesday afternoon trade, following the release of better-than-expected economic numbers from China.

Mainland Chinese shares were higher by the morning session’s end, with the Shanghai composite rising fractionally and the Shenzhen component adding about 0.21 percent. The Shenzhen composite rose 0.428 percent, but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.22 percent.

China said Wednesday its economy grew 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019, beating analysts’ expectations. A Reuters poll predicted the country’s gross domestic product would grow 6.3 percent year-on-year in the first three months of the year. China grew by 6.4 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of last year, and 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

“China’s high frequency economic indicators confirm that growth is bottoming out,” economists at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group wrote in a note following the data release.

“As the growth momentum of the Chinese economy picks up, we believe that policymakers will re-assess the need for further stimulus,” they said.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7190 following an earlier low of $0.7151. China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner, according to the latest data from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Investors have been watching the health of the Chinese economy — the world’s second largest — amid Beijing’s ongoing trade dispute with Washington. Official GDP figures are widely followed, but many experts have long expressed skepticism about the veracity of China’s reports.

China also released housing price data on Tuesday, reporting that average new home prices rose faster in March compared to a month earlier, according to Reuters’ calculation of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

“The housing data was interpreted as yet another signal that the China’s policy stimuli are beginning to show a positive effect on the economy,” Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.33 percent in afternoon trade, with shares of index heavyweight Fanuc rising more than 1 percent. The Topix index also added 0.29 percent.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi declined fractionally.

Meanwhile, the ASX 200 in Australia fell 0.26 percent as almost all the sectors slipped.

DuluxGroup, Australia’s largest paint maker, backed a A$3.81 billion (approx. $2.73 billion) takeover proposal from Japan-based Nippon Paint, Reuters reported. Shares of Dulux soared more than 27 percent following that announcement, while Nippon Paint dropped beyond 3 percent.

Nippon’s offer for Dulux comes as the Australian group’s revenue growth slows and building materials suppliers face strong headwinds as an east-coast homebuilding boom winds down and home values drop sharply, according to Reuters.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.944 after seeing lows around 96.8 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.94 against the dollar as it continued to trade in a range around the 112.0 handle.

Oil prices rose in Asian afternoon trade, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures gaining 0.35 percent to $71.97 per barrel and U.S. crude futures adding 0.67 percent to $64.48 per barrel.

Source: Reuters