Asian markets struggle, China property help in focus

Asian markets struggle, China property help in focus

China's property crisis has left several major companies on the brink of collapse, fuelling worries about the economy
China's property crisis has left several major companies on the brink of collapse, fuelling worries about the economy. Photo: STR / AFP
Source: AFP

Most Asian markets fell Friday following a broadly healthy week, with traders hoping for fresh Chinese moves to help the country's troubled property sector after officials called on banks to provide support.

Wall Street was closed for the Thanksgiving break, meaning investors were given few catalysts to drive buying, while oil was in focus after OPEC's decision to delay a key meeting sent prices sliding.

Equities have rallied in recent weeks on optimism the Federal Reserve will not hike interest rates again in this cycle as inflation heads south and the economy shows signs of easing without causing recession worries.

And while minutes from the bank's most recent policy meeting echoed warnings from decision-makers that borrowing costs will likely stay elevated for some time, there is hope that they will cut in 2024.

However, with traders taking a breather, many markets dipped in Asia on Friday.

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Hong Kong led the losses, having risen over the week, while Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore and Manila were also down.

Tokyo jumped as dealers there played catch-up with an advance in Asia on Thursday. Sydney, Taipei, Jakarta and Wellington edged higher.

Investors are keeping tabs on China after authorities called on banks to provide help to the beleaguered property sector, which makes up a huge part of the world's number two economy.

The rubber-stamp parliament on Wednesday released a report calling for lenders to do more for the industry, with the head of the People's Bank of China saying they should step up help to enact the "guaranteed delivery of buildings".

Bloomberg later reported that they were also weighing a plan that would allow banks to offer developers unsecured loans for the first time.

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That came after a report saying a draft list of firms eligible for bank support had been drawn up.

The moves suggest the government is lasering in on a debt crisis that threatens to take down some of the country's biggest property firms, including Evergrande and Country Garden, and hammer the economy.

"The property developer debt issue will be solved sooner or later," Jian Shi Cortesi, of GAM Investment Management, said.

"If this measure (on unsecured loans) is not enough, we will see more support next year."

May Zhao, at Zhongtai Financial International, was also hopeful that Beijing was moving towards staunching the crisis, saying the latest moves "would be powerful to break the vicious cycle of widespread defaults and avoid the spread of systemic risks".

Oil prices were mixed after a two-day fall that came in the wake of OPEC's decision to put back a crucial meeting by four days owing to a row over output quotas.

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Saudi Arabia and Russia earlier this year announced cuts of a million barrels a day through to 2024 to support prices, and there had been expectations Riyadh was planning to extend that or even cut further.

However, African countries are said to be pushing back, sparking the standoff.

The reductions have come as prices continue to drop -- down about 16 percent from a September high -- owing to increased non-OPEC supplies, a pick-up in US inventories and easing worries about the Israel-Hamas war.

"In light of the recent surge in US and non-OPEC production, this is likely ruffling a few feathers as many of the smaller OPEC members likely want to increase quotas," said Stephen Innes, of SPI Asset Management.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 33,715.55 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.6 percent at 17,632.26

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,053.10

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West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.5 percent at $76.73 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.4 percent at $81.55 per barrel

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 149.56 yen from 149.62 yen on Thursday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0896 from $1.0905

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2526 from $1.2531

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.98 pence from 87.03 pence

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,483.58 (close)

New York - DOW: Closed for a holiday

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Source: AFP

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