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Asian Stocks Mixed as Ukraine Clouds China Stimulus Hopes

China stocks were on the up on Friday as weak factory data fanned hopes of government intervention, but the war in Eastern Europe continued to weigh


Asian stock markets were calm on Wednesday after tension about Nancy Pelosi visiting the island.
Investors were in cautious mood on Wednesday monitoring developments linked to Sino-US tensions. File photo: Reuters.

 

Asia’s major markets ended the week with mixed results after what was the worst quarter for equities since the early days of the pandemic.

The war in Ukraine and the Federal Reserve’s plans to fight surging inflation by ramping up interest rates continue to cast a long shadow over trading floors but there were still some gains to be found.

China stocks ended higher on Friday with property developers leading the gains on expectations of more economic stimulus after data showed factory activity slumped at the fastest pace in two years in March.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, fell to 48.1 in March, broadly in line with the official PMI released on Thursday, as the domestic Covid-19 resurgence and the economic fallout from the Ukraine war weighed.

 

Also on AF: Brazil’s Central Bank Quadruples its Yuan Reserves

 

China’s commercial hub of Shanghai ground to a halt on Friday after the government locked down most of the city’s 26 million residents to stop the spread of Covid, even as official numbers showed cases falling for the second day in a row.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 Index rose 1.3% to 4,276.16, while the Hang Seng Index edged up 0.19%, or 42.70 points, to 22,039.55.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.94%, or 30.51 points, to 3,282.72, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange edged up 0.47%, or 9.86 points, to 2,127.82.

For the week, the CSI300 Index added 2.4%, the biggest weekly gain so far this year but it has tumbled 14.5% in the first three months of the year, marking its worst quarter since 2015.

Tokyo shares closed lower on Friday, tracking falls on Wall Street as worries mounted over Ukraine, while the latest business confidence data also weighed on sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.56%, or 155.45 points, to 27,665.98, while the broader Topix index lost 0.11%, or 2.13 points, to end at 1,944.27.

Indian stocks had a good day though with Mumbai’s signature Nifty 50 index up 1.18%, or 205.70 points, to close at 17,670.45.

 

Russian Gas Rouble Deadline

World stocks dipped further from recent six-week highs on Friday on worries about the Russia-Ukraine war and recession risks, and oil fell $2 a barrel on reserve releases.

European buyers of Russian gas faced a deadline to start paying in roubles on Friday, while negotiations aimed at ending the five-week war were set to resume even as Ukraine braced for further attacks in the south and east.

US and European shares notched their biggest quarterly drops since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2020 in the quarter that ended on Thursday.

But the quarterly drop in US shares masked a late comeback in the S&P 500 index, which rallied from a near-13% decline to finish the quarter off about 5%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.34% on Friday.

 

US Oil Release

Oil extended a sell-off following Thursday’s plunge in response to news that the United States would release a million barrels a day from its reserves as it looks to rein in a price rally fuelled by Russia’s conflict.

US crude futures fell more than $2 a barrel to $98.17 and Brent futures were also down $2 at $102.66 a barrel. 

Oil is on course for a 14% weekly fall – the sharpest in almost two years, after an earlier surge due largely to the Ukraine conflict – caused prices to rise by more than 30%.

Safe-haven gold dipped 0.25% after its biggest quarterly gain in two years. Spot gold was last quoted at $1,932.34 per ounce.

 

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225 > DOWN 0.6% at 27,665.98 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index > UP 0.2% at 22,039.55 (close)

Shanghai – Composite > UP 0.9% at 3,282.72 (close)

London – FTSE 100 > UP 0.3% at 7,535.23

Brent North Sea crude > DOWN 1.2% at $103.47 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate > DOWN 1.5% at $98.78 per barrel

New York – Dow > DOWN 1.6% at 34,678.35 (Thursday close)

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara

 


 

Read more:

Trading Halted in 32 Hong Kong-Listed Firms Over Results Delay

Asia Factory Activity Slows as Ukraine Crisis, Inflation Bite

 

Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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