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Asian stocks dip as rate cut rally cools, China data underwhelms

Published 05/17/2024, 10:52 AM
© Reuters

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks fell on Friday as warnings from a slew of Federal Reserve officials saw investors reassess expectations of interest rate cuts, while mixed economic readings from China prompted increased caution. 

Regional markets took a weak lead-in from Wall Street, as U.S. stock benchmarks closed lower after briefly touching record highs. U.S. stock index futures also tread water in Asian trade.

A string of Fed officials warned that it was still too soon to call for interest rate cuts by the central bank, and that the Fed needed more confidence to begin loosening policy.

Their comments largely undermined optimism over some softer U.S. consumer inflation readings for April, which had seen investors begin pricing in an increased possibility of a September rate cut. 

Some middling economic data from China also weighed on sentiment on Friday, although the country’s major tech companies were a sole bright spot among Asian shares.

Chinese markets retreat on mixed data

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite fell about 0.2%, as a flurry of economic readings presented a mixed outlook for Asia’s biggest economy. 

Industrial production grew more than expected in April, indicating that manufacturing activity was recovering. But on the other hand, retail sales missed expectations by a wide margin, as did fixed asset investment.

Other data showed a sustained decline in Chinese house prices, which undermined recent optimism over government efforts to support the beleaguered property sector. 

Concerns over China’s economy saw Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index trim a bulk of its early gains, with the index now trading up 0.2%. 

Alibaba surges as ‘Big Short’ Burry increases stake

But Hong Kong shares of Alibaba Group (HK:9988) (NYSE:BABA) rose sharply, up 7% at a seven-month high, after an overnight filing showed an investment firm run by Michael Burry, of the “Big Short” fame, had increased its stake in the e-commerce giant. 

Gains in Alibaba spilled over into other tech majors including Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:0700) and JD.com (HK:9618) (NASDAQ:JD). Burry was also seen increasing his stake in JD, which is now his biggest position. 

Chinese tech major Baidu Inc (HK:9888) (NASDAQ:BIDU) rose nearly 4%, as it forecast increased demand from artificial intelligence even as its first quarter earnings underwhelmed. 

Broader Asian stocks drifted lower, reversing course from strong gains on Thursday as markets reassessed the outlook for U.S. interest rates.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.4%, while the broader TOPIX rose 0.2%. 

Australia’s ASX 200 fell 0.6%, as concerns over China weighed on major mining and consumer stocks. 

South Korea’s KOSPI lost 0.8%, while futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a weak open. 

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