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Asia report: Markets mixed as China trade data beats forecasts

(Sharecast News) – Markets in Asia finished in a mixed state on Thursday, as investors digested the latest trade data out of China, as well as some fresh news on the vaccine front.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.85% at 28,698.26, as the yen weakened 0.11% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 104.00.

Of the major components on the benchmark index, robotics specialist Fanuc was up 2.22%, Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing added 1.66%, and technology giant SoftBank Group was 2.93% firmer.

The broader Topix index advanced 0.48% by the end of trading in Tokyo, settling at 1,873.28.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.91% at 3,565.90, and the smaller, technology-centric Shenzhen Composite was 1.39% weaker at 2,360.40.

Fresh data out of China earlier in the day showed the country’s exports rising 18.1% year-on-year in December, beating expectations for a 15% increase expected by analysts in a poll by Reuters.

At the same time, imports expanded 6.5% for December, which also beat Reuters-polled expectations for a 5% improvement.

“Price data is not yet available, but it’s likely that real exports fell, after a more than 5% rise in November,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics chief Asia economist Freya Beamish.

“Gains in import volumes probably slowed sharply.

“Breakdowns show that commodities were generally weak, apart from coal imports, which spiked, while tech imports remained strong.”

Beamish said the data suggested a positive contribution to fourth quarter real GDP growth from net trade, after a subtraction of more than one percentage point in the third quarter.

“Unfortunately, we won’t get trade data for this month, as the authorities last year decided to stop publishing January figures due to Lunar New Year distortions.

“But we reckon the downtrend in the adjusted surplus will continue, as commodity price gains feed through, while exports look exposed to the renewed Covid outbreaks across the globe.”

South Korea’s Kospi eked out gains of 0.05% at 3,149.93, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong added 0.93% to 28,496.86.

The blue-chip technology stocks were mixed in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics closing flat and SK Hynix falling 1.88%.

Investors were presented with more positive vaccine news during the session, as trial data released in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the single-jab Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson was both safe, and created an immune response in a range of age groups.

The vaccine candidate being developed by the American pharmaceutical and personal care giant could help to make the roll-out of vaccines simpler and faster, as the single required injection compared to the shots currently approved in the US and Europe which require two shots.

Oil prices were lower as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last down 0.21% at $55.94 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate losing 0.19% to $53.01.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.43% at 6,715.30, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 slipped 0.03% to 13,115.87.

Both of the down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last ahead 0.41% at AUD 1.2878, and the Kiwi advancing 0.22% to NZD 1.3899.

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