Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trading

Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday as investors digested disappointing Chinese data and awaited a slew of U.S. economic data this week for clues on outlook for the economy and interest rates.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting are scheduled to be released on Wednesday followed by U.S. employment data on Friday. The upcoming corporate earnings season also remained on investors’ radar. Japanese and New Zealand markets were closed for holidays.

Chinese shares ended notably higher as state media played down the severity of the Covid-19 wave surging over the country ahead of a WHO meeting with Chinese scientists.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.9 percent to 3,116.51 on hopes of a post-pandemic economic recovery. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 1.8 percent to 20,145.29.

Chinese factory activity deteriorated further at the end of the year as Covid-19 containment measures together with softer demand forced manufacturers to downsize production, a survey showed earlier today.

The Caixin manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index edged down to 49.0 in December from 49.4 in the previous month, remaining below the neutral 50.0 mark for the fifth straight month.

The official PMI survey results published over the weekend also showed that China’s manufacturing and services sectors weakened the most since early 2020.

The IMF chief noted that China’s growth last year is likely to be at or below the global growth average for the first time in 40 years.

Australian markets tumbled to reach an almost two-month low as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.3 percent to 6,946.20 as data showed the slowest growth in factory activity since May 2020, with new orders slipping for the first time in 15 months. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended 1.3 percent lower at 7,131.10.

Selling was seen across sectors, with banks, miners and energy companies leading losses. Gold miners outperformed as bullion prices hit a six-month high in thin trading.

Seoul stocks ended lower after data showed factory activity in the country shrank in December and overall orders posted its sharpest fall in two-and-a-half years.

The Kospi dropped 0.3 percent to 2,218.68, falling for a fourth straight session despite the government announcing plans to expand tax benefits to big chip companies.

U.S. markets were closed on Monday on account of the New Year’s Day holiday.

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