Stocks in Asia close out 2018 with annual declines

Big 5

Stocks in Asia were mixed on the final day of 2018, as most major markets around the globe were set to record calendar year declines.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.34 percent to finish the trading year at 25,845.70. The day’s gains, however, were unable to offset the index’s performance for 2018 — with it declining about 13.61 percent as compared to its final close of 2017. Hong Kong’s markets closed at 12:00 p.m. HK/SIN today for New Year’s Eve.

The ASX 200 in Australia, meanwhile, slipped 0.14 percent to close out 2018 at 5,646.40. The benchmark Australian index ended 2018 lower by 6.9 percent as compared to its final close of 2017. Australia’s markets closed at 11:10 a.m. HK/SIN today for New Year’s Eve.

On Monday, the materials subindex Down Under gained 0.4 percent, as shares of major miners advanced. Rio Tinto rose 0.50 percent, Fortescue advanced 1.21 percent and BHP Billiton climbed up by 0.82 percent.

Markets in Japan, South Korea and mainland China were closed.

China manufacturing activity decelerates

China’s manufacturing activity in December contracted even more than expected, according to government data: The country’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 49.4 — lower than the 49.9 analysts expected in a Reuters poll.

That was worse than November’s official manufacturing PMI, which was 50.0. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that signals contraction.

Official non-manufacturing PMI came in at 53.8 — higher than the reading of 53.4 in November. Economic data from China is being closely watched amid the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.

In trade war news, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and said that a “long and very good call ” had taken place between himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the post, Trump also said: “Deal is moving along very well. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made!”

Following the tweet, however, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump “may be overstating how close the two sides are to an agreement, ” citing sources “familiar with the state of negotiations.”

Trump’s comments came after both he and Xi earlier this month agreed to a 90-day pause in tariff escalation.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.452 after seeing highs above the 97 handle last week.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.41 after touching lows above 111.3 in the previous trading week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7061 after seeing highs above $0.707 last week.

Source: CNBC

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