Shanghai, Hong Kong rally on China stimulus hopes, Asian markets mixed

Shanghai, Hong Kong rally on China stimulus hopes, Asian markets mixed

While China's latest stimulus measures have been welcomed, analysts said officials needed to do more to help the economy, particularly the battered property sector
While China's latest stimulus measures have been welcomed, analysts said officials needed to do more to help the economy, particularly the battered property sector. Photo: STR / AFP
Source: AFP

Shanghai and Hong Kong stocks built on their recent rally Thursday as traders awaited fresh pledges of stimulus from Chinese officials a day after they announced a measure to boost bank lending, though other Asia markets fluctuated.

Another record close for the S&P 500 on Wall Street provided a positive lead for investors, while a string of data including on US economic growth and jobs could give some idea about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates.

Hong Kong and Shanghai rose for a third straight day on hopes Beijing will put in place more help for the stuttering economy after Wednesday's decision to cut the portion of cash banks must keep in reserve, a move aimed at freeing them up to lend more.

The 50 basis point cut to the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) was the first since September and twice as big as usual, which analysts said showed officials were getting increasingly worried about the economic outlook.

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Authorities also said they would unveil more support policies soon.

The cut added to an upbeat mood in the two cities that came on the back of reports that Alibaba co-founders Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai had bought about $200 million worth of shares in the firm in a signal of their confidence in the ecommerce titan.

Equities jumped more than one percent in Shanghai, while Hong Kong was also well up, having piled on around six percent in the previous two sessions.

"China is still worth watching given the valuations have come down so far," JPMorgan Asset Management's Kerry Craig told Bloomberg Television.

"There could be a near-term rally if we do see further policy announcements coming through."

However, there were warnings that the government needed to do a lot more to restore confidence in the world's number two economy, which has been hammered by a debt crisis in the vast property sector and weak overseas demand for its goods.

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"While the RRR cut triggered an impressive rally, markets will struggle to go higher as investors have their focus back to the economic fundamentals and uncertainties ahead of crucial political meetings in the coming two months," said Redmond Wong at Saxo.

And National Australia Bank's Rodrigo Catril added that it was "hard to see how a modest decline in borrowing rates will trigger a boost in credit demand.

"Beijing still needs to address structural issues, particularly within the property sector, while more support is needed for the consumer to boost economic momentum."

In other markets, Sydney, Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta advanced.

However, Tokyo suffered another loss, coming down from three-decade highs as bets on a hawkish pivot by the Bank of Japan pushed the yen up, which is bad for exporters.

Singapore, Seoul and Manila were also down.

US data this week will be closely scrutinised, with dealers hoping for a fresh handle on the Fed's rate plans.

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A recent run of strong readings -- and central bank warnings that officials were keen to keep borrowing costs elevated -- have dented expectations for a March reduction, which knocked an end-of-year equity rally off the rails.

"Frankly, everything depends on the incoming data now and there are a lot of potentially significant releases over the next few weeks that could swing the odds of a March rate cut in either direction," Paul Ashworth, at Capital Economics, said.

"We still think the Fed will lower rates by 25 basis points at that upcoming meeting."

The European Central Bank is also in focus as it completes its own policy meeting, with forecasts for it to stand pat for now and not move until summer, observers said.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 36,162.01 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.0 percent at 16,051.02

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Asian markets mostly up, Hong Kong boosted by Alibaba rally

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.4 percent at 2,858.89

Dollar/yen: UP at 147.65 yen from 147.62 yen on Wednesday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0878 from $1.0883

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2713 from $1.2717

Euro/pound: UP at 85.57 pence from 85.56 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $75.22 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.1 percent at $80.15 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 37,806.39 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,527.67 (close)

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Source: AFP

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