Markets in Asia slip, but China markets buck the trend to edge higher

Asian stocks traded mixed on the first trading day of the month after finishing February with losses. Declines in Japan and Australia came after sharp losses were recorded stateside in the previous session, while China markets rose.

The Nikkei 225 declined 1.46 percent, or 321.94 points, on the first day of March. Automakers, technology stocks and financials traded lower.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group lost 1.02 percent, Toyota slid 1.87 percent and apparel company Fast Retailing was off 1.15 percent. Among manufacturing names, Fanuc declined 1.3 percent and Kyocera lost 1.84 percent.

In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.8 percent. Losses were led by the energy sub-index, which fell 2.24 percent. Mining majors were also weaker in the morning, with Rio Tinto falling 4.18 percent and Fortescue Metals losing 1.69 percent.

Oil producers were lower in early trade as crude prices remained soft, with Oil Search down 4.64 percent. Australia’s “Big Four” banks were also weaker in the day, with ANZ down 1.1 percent while its peers recorded slighter losses.

Greater China markets shrugged off broader market sentiment to edge higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index reversed early losses to edge up by 0.23 percent.

The financials sector tacked on 0.25 percent after earlier trading in negative territory, with China Construction Bank advancing 0.74 percent. Despite broader gains, heavily weighted HSBC traded lower by 0.19 percent. Property developers were a mixed picture: Country Garden tacked on 1.99 percent while CK Asset slipped 0.07 percent. Index heavyweight Tencent traded higher by 2.41 percent.

Mainland markets traded slightly higher after recent losses following the release of expectation-topping private manufacturing activity data: The Shanghai composite tacked on 0.6 percent and the Shenzhen composite added 0.85 percent.

Caixin manufacturing PMI for February released on Thursday came in at 51.6, a touch above the 51.3 forecast in a Reuters poll. Official manufacturing PMI had missed forecasts, with analysts noting the impact of the Lunar New Year holiday on manufacturing activity.

MSCI’s broad index of shares listed in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was lower by 0.31 percent by 12:48 p.m. HK/SIN.

Markets in South Korea and Thailand were closed for holidays on Thursday.

Losses in Asia came after U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday despite the Dow Jones industrial average advancing as much as 166 points earlier in the session. The 30-stock index closed lower by 1.5 percent at 25,029.20.

Asian markets finished February with losses after a global rout in stock markets earlier that month. The Shanghai composite and Hang Seng Index were down 6.4 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. That was their worst month in more than two years.

For the month, the Dow and S&P 500 closed lower by 4.3 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six currencies, was stable at 90.704 by 12:31 p.m. HK/SIN after touching a five-week high in the overnight session.

The dollar had firmed after new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave a positive assessment of the U.S. economy on Tuesday and signaled interest rates could rise more than three times this year.

Powell is due to address Congress again on Thursday during U.S. market hours.

Gains in the dollar index also came as the euro slid in the last session, ahead of elections in Italy at the weekend. The common currency traded flat at $1.2192. Meanwhile, sterling extended losses to trade at $1.3746 after Wednesday’s sharp fall which came about on Brexit worries.

Against the yen, however, the dollar pared some of Wednesday’s losses to trade at 106.79, but remained below levels around the 107 handle seen during Asian trade in the last session.

On the energy front, prices were steady following the overnight drop in prices, after data reflected an increase in U.S. stockpiles. U.S. West Texas Intermediate were higher by 0.13 percent at $61.72 per barrel. Brent crude futures, meanwhile, slipped 0.06 percent to trade at $64.69.

Source: CNBC