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Asian stocks muted amid China stimulus talk, U.S. rate risks

Published 08/17/2023, 10:38 PM
© Reuters.

Investing.com -- Most Asian stocks kept to a tight range on Friday amid persistent fears of rising U.S. interest rates, although signals of more Chinese stimulus measures helped local shares mark some gains. 

Overnight losses on Wall Street provided a weak lead-in to regional stocks, after data showed a bigger-than-expected drop in weekly jobless claims, indicating some resilience in the labor market. This gives the Federal Reserve more headroom to keep rates higher.

Asian markets were also nursing steep losses for the week, as concerns over worsening economic conditions in China added to the anxiety over rising interest rates. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2%, while the TOPIX fell 0.5% as data showed that Japanese consumer inflation remained sticky in July, putting more pressure on the Bank of Japan to potentially tighten policy further. 

The technology-heavy South Korean KOSPI was flat, while heavyweight Hong Kong-listed technology stocks also continued to decline. 

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly positive open, after the index sank for the past five sessions. A bigger-than-expected spike in Indian inflation pressured local stocks. 

Chinese stocks rise on stimulus promises 

Chinese markets were among the few gainers for the day, after the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said that it will continue to pump up liquidity conditions and support slowing economic growth in the country.

The Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rose 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, rising from multi-month lows, while losses in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index were also limited. 

The PBOC’s comments come just a few days after the central bank unexpectedly cut short and medium-term lending rates. The move likely heralds a cut in the bank’s loan prime rate next week, which is expected to further loosen monetary conditions in the country.

China is grappling with a slowing post-COVID economic recovery, which could be worsened by a potential default in the country’s real estate sector, particularly in Country Garden Holdings (HK:2007). 

Hopes for Chinese stimulus helped Australia’s ASX 200 add 0.3% on Friday, as did a string of positive corporate earnings from the country this week.

Asian stocks head for steep weekly losses amid Fed fears, China woes 

But while the prospect of Chinese stimulus measures provided some relief to Asian markets on Friday, most regional bourses were nursing steep weekly losses on the prospect of a slowdown in the region's largest economy.

Hawkish signals from the Fed also weighed, as the minutes of the central bank’s July meeting showed most policymakers supported higher rates to curb sticky inflation.

China’s key indexes were down between 0.5% and 1% for the week, while the Hang Seng was down 4.4%, its worst week since mid-June.

The Nikkei 225 was down nearly 3%, while Australia’s ASX 200 shed 2.5% this week. 


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