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Asian stocks skittish before more rate cues; China extends recovery

Published 02/20/2024, 09:49 PM
Updated 02/20/2024, 09:49 PM
© Reuters. Most Asian stocks retreated on Wednesday, tracking overnight weakness in Wall Street as risk sentiment wavered ahead of more cues from the Federal Reserve and key earnings from artificial intelligence giant NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA). 

Chinese markets, however, saw extended gains as they recovered further from five-year lows. A bigger-than-expected interest rate cut by the People’s Bank of China on Tuesday also appeared to be lending some support.

Wall Street indexes closed lower on Tuesday, while futures fell in Asian trade on Wednesday as some uncertainty ahead of chipmaker Nvidia’s quarterly earnings triggered a heavy dose of profit-taking in the technology sector. 

S&P 500 Futures fell 0.1%, while Nasdaq 100 Futures lost nearly 0.3%. Dow Jones Futures shed 0.1%. Focus was also on the minutes of the Fed’s late-January meeting, which are expected to provide more insight into the bank’s plans for interest rates. 

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4%, extending losses into a third straight session after the index surged to 34-year highs earlier this month. Technology stocks were the biggest decliners, with chipmakers and chip-related stocks falling in line with overnight losses in Nvidia. 

Data showed Japanese exports grew much more than expected in January, while imports shrank more than expected.

Australia’s ASX 200 slid 0.8%, also seeing heavy profit-taking after notching record highs earlier in 2024. Heavyweight mining stocks, particularly BHP Group Ltd (ASX:BHP), were the biggest weights on the index, tracking a decline in commodity prices. 

On the other hand, National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) rose 1.1% to a 6-½ year high on a stronger quarterly profit. 

Futures for India's Nifty 50 index pointed to a flat open.

Chinese stocks rise as positive travel figures aid sentiment 

China’s bluechip Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 index rose 0.8%, while the Shanghai Composite added 0.9%, with both indexes pulling further away from five year lows.

Sentiment towards China was boosted by official data showing a large increase in travel demand and spending through the Lunar New Year holiday, which raised hopes for a broader recovery in spending. 

Gains in mainland stocks saw Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shoot up 1.9%. A bigger-than-expected interest rate cut by the People’s Bank on Tuesday also bolstered sentiment towards Chinese markets.

Tech skittish before Nvidia earnings 

Most major Asian technology stocks tracked overnight losses in their U.S. peers, with investors turning largely cautious towards the sector in anticipation of fourth-quarter earnings from Nvidia Corp .

Markets were waiting to see whether Nvidia could deliver on forecasts of a massive spike in revenue and earnings, which in turn are likely to factor into optimism over an AI-driven boom in tech.

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.3% on losses in heavyweight tech stocks, while Nvidia suppliers Advantest Corp. (TYO:6857) and TSMC (TW:2330) (NYSE:TSM) fell 3.3% and 0.9%, respectively. 

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China economy is about producing not about traveling and spending.
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