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Asian stocks muted as rate cut hopes wane; China reopens higher

Published 02/18/2024, 09:28 PM
Updated 02/18/2024, 09:28 PM
© Reuters Most Asian stocks kept to a tight range on Monday, tracking weakness in Wall Street as stronger-than-expected inflation data fueled more fears of higher-for-longer U.S. interest rates.

Wall Street indexes fell on Friday after data showed U.S. producer price index inflation grew more than expected in January. The reading, which came just days after stronger-than-expected consumer price index inflation data, saw traders further price out the chances of early interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve this year. 

S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 futures rose mildly in Asian trade, with focus turning to key earnings reports from NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT), due later in the week. U.S. markets were set to remain closed on Monday for a national holiday.

China reopens higher, but recovery doubts remain

Chinese markets reopened higher after a week-long holiday, but saw limited gains. China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rose 0.5% and 1%, respectively, recovering further from multi-year lows hit earlier in 2024. 

On the other hand, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was the worst performer in Asia on Monday, sliding 1.1% after anticipation of the Chinese reopening triggered strong gains on Friday. 

Official data released over the past week showed that consumer spending rose sharply during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, while travel demand surpassed pre-COVID levels. 

But whether this was a flash in the pan, or the beginning of a strong recovery, remained to be seen. Economic data released before the holiday had shown the Chinese economy remained under pressure from weak business activity and a growing deflationary trend. 

Focus this week is on the People's Bank of China's benchmark loan prime rate, which the central bank is widely expected to keep unchanged at record lows.

Other Asian markets moved in a flat-to-low range. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3% amid some profit-taking, but remained within sight of record highs.

Videogame giant Nintendo Co Ltd (TYO:7974) sank 6.2% after Bloomberg reported a delay in the release of a successor to its wildly successful Switch (NYSE:SWCH) console, to 2025 from 2024. 

Australia’s ASX 200 was flat, while South Korea’s KOSPI rose 0.8%, buoyed chiefly by heavyweight chipmaking stocks. 

Memory chip maker SK Hynix Inc (KS:000660) rose nearly 4%, briefly hitting a record high on bets that it will benefit greatly from a boom in AI development over the coming months. 

Most Southeast Asian bourses were flat, while futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a muted open, in line with limited moves across broader Asia.  


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