Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Asian stocks fall on fresh signs of China weakness: markets wrap

Asian stocks fall on fresh signs of China weakness: markets wrap
An electronic stock board displayed inside the Kabuto One building in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, 4 January 2024.

Stocks in Asia fell on Friday after data from China showed fresh economic weakness and traders reassessed the path forward for US interest rates.

A gauge of the region’s equities fell for the first time in six sessions as stocks in mainland China, Australia and South Korea declined, while Japanese shares trimmed early gains.

The moves followed a lacklustre day on Wall Street and further signs of stress in the world’s second-largest economy. Home sales in China fell in April at a faster pace than the prior month and consumption unexpectedly slowed, providing a new warning sign for the economy.

“A-share investor sentiment dropped notably versus the prior week,” Morgan Stanley strategists led by Laura Wang said in a note on Friday. “Weak credit and inflation data, as well as the US tariff hike announcement, renewed investor concerns regarding weak macro conditions and ongoing geopolitical friction.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index swung between gains and losses near a nine-month high, as robust results supported Alibaba and Baidu Inc. US equity futures were little changed after a small decline for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 on Thursday.

The yen weakened against the dollar after news the Bank of Japan left bond buying amounts unchanged. One former BOJ chief economist suggested the central bank may raise interest rates three more times this year with the next move coming as early as June, given its easy policy settings.

Treasuries were little changed in Asian trading, while Australian and New Zealand yields climbed, tracking moves in US government bonds on Thursday. A gauge of greenback strength rose, while the offshore yuan weakened against the dollar.

Traders will be focused on signs of further support for China’s property sector, including a potential plan to clear excess inventory, according to media reports. Key officials will meet on Friday morning to discuss such a plan, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

“The key issue facing China’s recovery this year is ‘complacency risk’ — the danger that Beijing will be content with growth that looks decent in terms of real GDP growth (driven by strong production data) but is weaker in terms of nominal growth (due to deflationary pressures) and the economic conditions facing firms and households,” Michael Hirson of 22V Research said.

Caution in risk assets reflected a repricing of Federal Reserve rate cut expectations in the swaps market. Traders had increased expectations from one cut in 2024 to two following Wednesday’s consumer price index data. On Thursday, those bets retreated, leaving just one cut fully priced in this year.

“There is a lot of leeway for the stock market if we do see a short-term pullback soon,” said Matt Maley at Miller Tabak + Co. “Put another way, the bulls are still fully in charge right now, and so it will take a significant reversal to stem the tide of the upside momentum.”

Higher for longer

Three Federal Reserve officials said the central bank should keep borrowing costs high for longer as policymakers await more evidence inflation is easing, suggesting they’re not in a rush to cut interest rates.

Cleveland Fed president Loretta Mester, New York Fed president John Williams and Richmond Fed president Thomas Barkin, speaking separately Thursday, argued it may take longer for inflation to reach their 2% target.

Commodities were broadly higher. West Texas Intermediate climbed early on Friday, on pace for a third day of gains. Gold was little changed after a Thursday drop. Bitcoin traded above $65,000 after halting a decline in the prior session.

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  • Scott Gordon says:

    “Home sales in China fell in April at a faster pace than the prior month and consumption unexpectedly slowed, providing a new warning sign for the economy.

    “A-share investor sentiment dropped notably versus the prior week.
    The world’s 2nd biggest economy is in melt down !
    How many warning signs do you want ?
    All developers are basically bankrupt , cannot pay interest on debt .
    Cannot complete half built homes , for a population that does not exist .
    Existing home prices are falling daily , owners fail to sell at a loss .
    Or just give up , stop paying . So no HSR or flights 🙂 no more debt !
    The west rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of selling into the Chinese market .
    They are not consuming as they did before .
    100s of thousands are not building , tech departure can run over a million jobs .
    So China will fix the oversupply of homes , demolish them , no regard for the owners .
    Not Xi city of course .
    ‘complacency risk’ , ‘ common prosperity 🙂
    GDP figures can be misleading . Especially in China .
    the historically 800 million poor in the east , rarely qualify 🙂
    the CCP has tried a few moves to promote consumerism , the Chinese are not listening .
    Ex pats have gone , malls are empty as are the streets and MRT . HSR is expensive .
    Imagine the outcry in the USA if they said we are cutting infrastructure spend by 50 % , as did the CCP !
    Brokers get their cut while investors lose !

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