Asian Stocks Weekly Roundup: Markets Weighed Down By China Concerns; Japan Scrips Soar High

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Most of the Asian markets remained weak last week as negative economic indicators from China dampened investor sentiment, but Japanese shares soared on stimulus hopes.

The benchmark Nikkei average index advanced 2.3 percent this week. South Korea's KOSPI fell 1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 2.4 percent, and China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.7 percent.

The Asian markets opened mixed Monday after a rally that took many bourses to multi-year highs last week, as investors treaded cautiously amid disappointing economic data and property control fears discouraging the market sentiment in China, although better-than expected employment data from the U.S. buoyed the markets later in the week.

The Japanese stock market witnessed a correction last week following a recent rally fuelled by growing optimism in the global economy. The market gained mid-week with an anticipated appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan Governor.

Japan's industrial production increased 0.3 percent month-on-month in January, as a moderate pickup in the global economy helped businesses to increase their production activity. This was higher than analysts' estimate of zero percent industrial production in January. 

As expected, Japan’s parliament approved the nomination of former Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda as the next Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor Friday, clearing the way for more aggressive monetary stimulus measures from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japanese stocks rejoiced in a rally, soon after the news of Kuroda’s appointment was confirmed.

Earlier, the Japanese government reported that core machinery orders that measures the change in the total value of new orders placed with machine manufacturers, excluding ships and utilities fell 13.1 percent in January from the previous month.

The yen extended its losses against the dollar during the week, climbing over the 96 mark, but gained against American dollar towards the end of week to close at 95.

Markets were disappointed by the Chinese government’s decision to control property prices. Authorities in Shenzhen had already imposed price restrictions on developers, according to the local media reports.

Chinese industrial production fell unexpectedly to 9.9 percent from 10.3 percent a year ago, and retail sales dropped sharply to 12.3 percent from 15.2 percent recorded in the same period a year ago, against the analysts’ expectation of 10.5 percent growth, according to the government data released last weekend.

Concerns over euro zone economic crisis weighed down on the markets this week. A decline in Britain's January industrial production and French factory output and a warning from the head of Germany's central bank about the persistence of euro debt crisis also weighed down the investor sentiments, this week.

However, the positive data released from the U.S. underscored hopes of economic recovery.

Government data indicated Wednesday that the U.S. retail spending increased in February at a fastest pace in five months with core retail sales recording 1.0 percent growth beating analysts’ expectation of 0.2 percent growth on a month-on-month basis. On Thursday, the U.S. markets challenged multi-month highs as the government data showed that initial jobless claims in the U.S. dropped from 342,000 to 332,000 against analysts’ expectation of an increase to 350,000.  The continuing jobless claims data released Thursday showed a decline to 3,024,000 from 3,113,000.

India's BSE Sensex was down 1.28 percent or 252.32 points Friday and closed at 19,427.56.

India's trade deficit in February narrowed to its lowest level in 10 months as exports grew for the second successive month, raising hopes that increasing demand in euro zone countries, will help bridge India's wide current account deficit.

The south Asian economy's imports also showed signs of moderation as the trade deficit narrowed to $14.92 billion in February, down sharply from $20.08 billion in January.

India's industrial output increased by 2.4 percent in January after contracting by 0.6 percent (revised from 0.5 percent) in December, as the manufacturing activity picked up following an increase in power production, the official data released Tuesday showed. Reuters’ analysts estimated 1.2 percent growth rate in January.

India's wholesale price index (WPI) rose a faster-than-expected 6.84 percent in February, clouding the policy outlook ahead of a Central Bank meeting next week, data released Thursday showed.

Reuters' analysts had pegged the wholesale prices, the main gauge of inflation, to rise to 6.54 percent annually, slower than an annual rise of 6.62 percent recorded in January.

Indian markets are likely to focus on RBI's policy review Tuesday, with analysts expecting the central bank to lower interest rates by 25 basis points.

 

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