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China tech, yuan fall as stimulus hopes unanswered: markets wrap

China tech, yuan fall as stimulus hopes unanswered: markets wrap
Traffic moves over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge as smoke from Canadian wildfires casts a haze over New York City on 7 June 2023. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images)

Asian stocks drifted lower on Monday led by Chinese tech companies while a volatile day for currency markets saw the offshore yuan weaken as investors await fresh stimulus from China.

A gauge of the region’s equities fell 0.5% as benchmarks in mainland China and Hong Kong declined alongside South Korean shares. Japanese equities were mostly steady while Australian stocks were clear outliers, climbing around 0.7%. US stock and bond markets are closed on Monday for a holiday.

Chinese tech platforms were among the hardest hit companies with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Meituan and Baidu all tumbling over 3% to drag the Hang Seng Tech index as much as 2% lower. 

Chipmakers were also under pressure. Samsung and SK Hynix fell following a decline for US-traded Micron Technologies on Friday after it warned that about half of its sales tied to China-headquartered clients may be affected by a Chinese cybersecurity probe.

The offshore yuan fell, while the Australian dollar reversed an early gain to fall alongside the New Zealand dollar. The yen traded flat after reversing an early decline that at one point touched levels not seen since November last year. An index of the dollar bounced back Monday after suffering its worst week since January.

The moves reflect uncertainty about China’s economy and the scope of any potential stimulus to spur its sputtering recovery.

Reports from China’s State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Qiang provided little clarity. News media stated China must adopt “more forceful” measures and respond in a timely manner to support the economic recovery.

The country is set to cut its one and five year loan prime rates in decisions expected Tuesday, according to economist forecasts, after the country reduced a key lending rate last week.

Nomura Holdings, Standard Chartered Plc and Morgan Stanley have said authorities may increase the quota for local government special-purpose bonds to finance infrastructure investments in a potential stimulus package to boost growth.

“Market expectation of policy stimulus is building,” said Kinger Lau, chief equity strategist, China, for Goldman Sachs. He sees further official support for the economy among a series of drivers that could spur Chinese equities higher. “A number of these supportive catalysts are falling into place, engendering an attractive tactical market setup for stock operators to take risk,” he said in a note on Monday.

The visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing in which he held “candid” talks with his Chinese counterpart also heightened the focus on China on Monday.

Australian 10-year bond yields fell four basis points while those in New Zealand rose by two basis points after Treasury yields climbed on Friday.

Fed chair Jerome Powell will give his semi-annual report to Congress on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis president James Bullard and his counterparts in New York and Chicago are all set to speak in the week ahead.

The Fed kept interest rates unchanged last week but warned of more tightening ahead. In the past, pausing rate hikes for three months after such a run of interest rate hikes has boosted stock prices

“We might just have a chance of avoiding recession,” said Loreen Gilbert, chief executive officer for Wealthwise Financial in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “The markets are already expecting another rate hike and our baseline is that might not even happen.”

Other key central bank developments in the week ahead include policy meetings in Turkey, the UK and Switzerland. DM

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