Most Asian stocks drift lower; China GDP growth tops estimates

Most Asian markets drifted lower on Tuesday as investors digested the release of better-than-expected China data. The dollar was also broadly steady after slipping on the back of an overnight pick up in investor confidence amid fading geopolitical concerns.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 was little changed and last edging higher by 0.01 percent. The broader Topix was off by 0.22 percent, as the oil sector recorded gains amid declines seen in most other sectors.

Over in Seoul, the Kospi shed 0.1 percent despite automakers climbing. Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 drifted higher by 0.27 percent as all its subindexes traded in the green.

Greater China markets were lower after the release of key data on Tuesday, but had pared some of the steeper declines seen earlier in the session. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index eased 0.08 percent, as slight gains in the technology sector were offset by declines in property and industrials stocks.

The Shanghai composite was last off by 0.12 percent and the Shenzhen composite edged down by 0.48 percent.

China’s economy grew 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018, the country’s statistical bureau said. The figure beat an estimate of 6.7 percent on year growth projected in a Reuters poll.

Tentative moves in the region came despite U.S. stocks closing higher in the last session as investors shifted their attention from geopolitical tensions to strong corporate earnings releases.

Expectations for earnings season stateside are high, with first-quarter results projected to rise 18.6 percent compared to one year ago, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

U.S. markets had advanced in the previous session after last week’s U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria in response to a likely chemical attack there earlier in April. Investors were apparently calmed by top defense officials’ characterization of the strikes as a “one time shot.”

Trade tensions also continued to simmer, having taken a backseat in recent sessions.

The U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a denial of export privileges against China’s ZTE, a telecommunications equipment company. The ban stops U.S. companies from selling to ZTE for seven years, Reuters reported, and comes after the Chinese firm failed to adhere to an agreement with the U.S. government after it illegally shipped equipment to Iran and North Korea, U.S. officials said.

ZTE shares in Hong Kong and Shenzhen were halted from trade on Tuesday, pending an announcement.

In individual movers, Hyundai Motor was up 2.61 percent, outperforming the South Korean market. The advance in Hyundai came amid Reuters headlines that a unit of Elliott Management, which owns more than $1 billion in shares of Hyundai affiliates, was supportive of the automaker’s reorganization plans.

Meanwhile, the dollar was steady against a basket of currencies after investor confidence firmed overnight, with the dollar index last at 89.428.

The greenback extended losses against the yen, trading at 107.05 at 10:26 a.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels above the 107.1 handle seen on Monday.

Of note, the pound rose as high as $1.4355 during the session, the currency’s strongest levels since Brexit.

On the commodities front, oil prices were moderately higher after Monday’s fall. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures added 0.45 percent to trade at $66.52 per barrel and Brent crude futures edged up 0.32 percent to $71.65. Source: CNBC