Asia stocks mixed as China enjoys Lunar New Year bump

Asia stocks mixed as China enjoys Lunar New Year bump

Analysts pointed to data showing a 61 percent year-on-year rise in rail trips made in China during the Lunar New Year holiday as being a positive sign
Analysts pointed to data showing a 61 percent year-on-year rise in rail trips made in China during the Lunar New Year holiday as being a positive sign. Photo: Pedro PARDO / AFP
Source: AFP

Chinese stocks were buoyant after Lunar New Year but other Asian markets were mixed on Monday as a hot US inflation report rekindled worries over the timing of Fed rate cuts.

Shares fell in Tokyo and Hong Kong after a larger-than-expected rise in US wholesale prices on Friday dealt a blow to hopes of an early interest-rate cut by the Federal Reserve, causing Wall Street to end in the red.

But Shanghai and Shenzhen gained as traders returned from a week-long break. Markets in Seoul and Sydney also rose, while Singapore started the day flat.

Analysts pointed to data showing a 61 percent year-on-year rise in rail trips made in China during the Lunar New Year holiday, with hundreds of millions of people on the move as extended families gathered across the vast country.

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Healthy hotel bookings and e-commerce spending in the holiday period were also cited as a reason for the upbeat sentiment.

"Early data around holiday travel may show some green shoots for the sluggish Chinese consumer," Taylor Nugent from National Australia Bank wrote in a note.

Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, called the data a source of relief for Chinese "policymakers grappling with challenges such as slowing economic growth, deflation risks, subdued consumer demand, and a collapse in the property sector".

"However, while the surge in tourism provides a glimmer of hope, its long-term sustainability remains uncertain," he cautioned.

Innes said investors in Chinese shares were optimistic about sustaining recent positive momentum in Asian markets despite last week's US inflation shock.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said the US central bank should "resist the temptation to act quickly" as it considers the right time to begin rate cuts.

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Nugent noted on Monday that Fed speakers have "continued to preach patience", adding that "the data flow isn't giving them the green light to accelerate their cutting plans".

Despite modest falls on Monday, Tokyo's key Nikkei index has been booming, with a positive trend seen in recent months now taking the index close to an all-time record set in 1989.

Optimism around strong Japanese earnings reports and the weak yen is bolstering this performance, analysts said.

But "some investors may consider profit-taking opportunities as the Nikkei approaches new all-time highs, as many wonder how long the weaker currency, which has supported exporter profits hugely... will last", Innes warned.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 38,365.59

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.1 percent at 16,162.90

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 2,887.83

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 149.97 yen from 150.16 yen

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Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2615 from $1.2603

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0778 from $1.0781 on Friday

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.44 pence from 85.51 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.5 percent at $82.87 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.6 percent at $81.28 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 38,627.99 points (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.5 percent at 7,711.71 (close)

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Source: AFP

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