Asia shares gain despite rising China COVID cases
SYDNEY – Asian share markets mostly rose on Wednesday but oil and the dollar slipped as rising COVID-19 cases in China raised fears of fresh lockdowns that could slow the reopening of the world’s second-largest economy.
European equities looked set to follow Asia higher, with the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures up 0.33 percent, Germany’s DAX futures up 0.27 percent and FTSE futures up 0.16 percent. U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, slipped 0.07 percent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4 percent, buoyed by gains in U.S. stocks overnight. The index is up 12 percent so far this month.
Australian shares were up 0.63 percent, led by mining and resources giants. Japan’s stock market was closed for a national holiday.
New Zealand’s central bank raised interest rates by 75 basis points – its largest ever move – on Wednesday to a near 14-year high of 4.25 percent and flagged more hikes are on the way as it struggles to contain stubbornly high inflation.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.46 percent in early trade while China’s CSI300 Index was down 0.2 percent.
China on Wednesday reported 29,157 new COVID infections for Nov. 22, compared with 28,127 new cases a day earlier. Case numbers in Beijing and Shanghai are steadily rising, and remain high in several major manufacturing and export hubs, prompting authorities to close some facilities.
“The biggest story for investors in Asia is still the China reopening,” said Suresh Tantia, Credit Suisse’s senior investment strategist in Singapore.
“We had seen China markets rally up to 20% but those expectations are being dialled back, we think a reopening will be a slower process and will not be done in a hurry. That means a lot of investors are trimming their exposure, cutting their losses or booking any profits they might have made on China.”
Meanwhile, the release of U.S. Federal Reserve minutes from its November policy meeting later on Wednesday is being keenly awaited by investors as they look for any sign of discussions about moderating the pace of interest rate hikes.
The November consumer price index will be published on Dec. 13, the day before the central bank delivers its final interest rate decision for 2022.
“The Fed is going to be very data driven and they are will need to see more than one softer inflation result because one weaker month in October is not a trend,” said Clara Cheong, JPMorgan Asset Management investment strategist.
“If November shows inflation cooling, we still think the Fed will raise by 50 basis points rather than less or showing any signs they are starting a pivot.”
In Asian trading, the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 3.7578 percent compared with its U.S. close of 3.758 percent on Tuesday.
The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 4.5144 percent compared with a U.S. close of 4.517 percent.
The dollar rose 0.13 percent against the yen to 141.43.
The European single currency was up 0.1 percent on the day at $1.0313, while the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was mildly weaker at 107.07.
“The U.S. dollar lost a little of its recent gains (as) central bankers’ consensus about how much more interest rates should rise is fraying,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Tobin Gorey wrote on Wednesday.
“Smaller or fewer rate rises are perhaps not a cause for optimism, it is cause for less pessimism.”
Oil failed to hold on to earlier gains during the Asian session.
It rose initally after top exporter Saudi Arabia said OPEC+ would maintain output cuts and could take further steps to balance the market.
But prices started to fall later in the session. By midday, U.S. crude had dipped 0.19 percent to $80.80 a barrel and Brent crude was down 0.3 percent at $88.08.
Gold was slightly lower. Spot gold was traded at $1734.35 per ounce.
While the FTX exchange collapse continues to roil cryptocurrency markets, Bitcoin was up 2.2 percent in Asian trading hours to $16,482.
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