Asian shares are mixed, with China up after state fund says it will buy stocks

AP , Tuesday 6 Feb 2024

Shares were mixed Tuesday in Asia, where Chinese stocks surged after a government investment fund said it would step up stock purchases and a report said leader Xi Jinping was set to meet with officials to discuss the markets.

A currency trader watches monitors near the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (K
A currency trader watches monitors near the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left, and the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. AP


Oil prices rose and U.S. futures were mixed.

Bloomberg reported that Xi was to be briefed by officials about the markets, underscoring the ruling Communist Party's concern over a slump that has wiped out trillions of dollars in market value over the past several years. Citing unnamed officials, it said the timing of the briefing was uncertain. The report could not be confirmed.

But markets jumped after it was published, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng surging 4% to 16,133.60 in a rally led by technology shares such as e-commerce giant Alibaba, which gained 7.7% and, which was up 7.7%. Online food delivery company Meituan jumped 6.5%.

The Shanghai Composite index climbed 3.2% to 2,789.49. In China's smaller main market, the Shenzhen Component index soared 6.2%, while the CSI 1000, an exchange-traded fund that often is used to track so-called “snowball derivatives,” investment products that can pay big gains but also can result in exaggerated losses, advanced 7%.

The latest salvo in the government's campaign to prop up sagging markets came with a promise by China's Central Huijin Investment, a sovereign fund that owns China's state-run banks and other big government controlled enterprises, to expand its purchases of stock index funds.

The fund periodically steps up buying of shares in big state-owned banks and other companies to counter heavy selling pressure in the Chinese markets. On Monday, benchmarks in Shanghai and the smaller market in Shenzhen bounced between small gains and big losses, while share prices of state-run banks and other big companies rose.

Elsewhere in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5% to 36,160.66 and the Kospi in South Korea lost 0.6%, to 2,576.20.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6% to 7,581.60

In Bangkok, the SET gained 1%, while India's Sensex rose 0.5%.

On Monday, stocks slipped on Wall Street as data showed the economy remains strong, which could delay interest rate cuts investors are counting on.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3% to 4,942.81 from the all-time high set Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.7% to 38,380.12, and the Nasdaq composite edged down by 0.2%, to 15,597.68.

Stocks broadly felt pressure from another jump for bond yields, which rose as traders absorbed a message that the Federal Reserve will not begin cutting its main interest rate as soon as they had hoped.

The Fed has yanked the federal funds rate to its highest level since 2001 to bring down high inflation. High rates intentionally slow the economy by making borrowing more expensive and hurting investment prices.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said again in an interview broadcast Sunday that the Fed may cut interest rates three times this year because inflation has been cooling. But he also indicated again in the interview on “60 Minutes” that the Fed is unlikely to begin in March, as many traders had earlier hoped.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 4.15% early Tuesday, down from 4.16% late Monday.

A report showed U.S. services industries are more robust than economists expected, led by health care and social assistance, according to the Institute for Supply Management

Such signals could lead the Fed to pause longer before cutting rates, because they could keep upward pressure on inflation.

But there's also an upside for stocks from the U.S. economy's blasting through worries about a possible recession. The economic strength should drive growth in profits for companies, which are the other lever that dictates where stock prices go over the long term.

In other trading Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 26 cents to $73.04 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, was up 29 cents at $78.28 per barrel.

The dollar fell to 148.60 Japanese yen from 148.68 yen. The euro rose to $1.0757 from $1.0743.

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