Asian Shares End Flat To Higher In Cautious Trading

Asian stocks ended flat to slightly higher on Thursday despite weak Chinese data and mixed signals from the U.S. Federal Reserve on rate-hike plans. Japanese markets were closed on account of Greenery Day.

Chinese shares rose notably after data showed travel in China surged over the Labour Day holidays. Investors shrugged off separate data pointing to a staggered economic recovery.

A private survey showed China’s manufacturing sector unexpectedly shrank in April due to softer domestic demand.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.8 percent to 3,350.46, with financials and state-owned enterprises leading the surge. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rallied 1.3 percent to 19,948.73.

After the Federal Reserve raised rates, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority today raised its base rate charged through the overnight discount window by 25 basis points to 5.50 percent, the highest since January 2008.

Seoul stocks recovered from an early slide to end on a flat note, with the Kospi finishing marginally lower at 2,500.94 after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said inflation remains too high and it is too soon to say rate hiking cycle is over.

Vaccine maker SK Bioscience soared 16.4 percent after it reportedly won a contract from multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

Australian markets ended little changed as financials declined, offsetting gains in the mining and energy sectors. National Australia Bank plunged 6.4 percent after its half-year profit came in below expectations. Peers ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac lost 2-4 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose 1.6 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Woodside Energy added 1 percent and Santos gained 1.9 percent after oil prices rebounded from a three-day rout.

Australia’s services activity grew the most in a year in April, while growth in retail sales doubled in March, driven by the combined growth in the food-related spending, separate data showed.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P NZX-50 Index rose 0.5 percent to 11,968.55 after the release of encouraging building permits data for March.

U.S. stocks slid into the red overnight to extend losses from the previous session after the Federal Reserve delivered another quarter-point rate hike but signaled a potential pause in its tightening cycle depending on incoming data on inflation and other factors.

The Dow shed 0.8 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gave up half a percent and the S&P 500 declined 0.7 percent amid continuing debt-ceiling worries.

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