Asian stocks rose Tuesday despite a lukewarm lead from Wall Street after weak Chinese economic data showed the deep cuts of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy and added to inflation worries.
China has persisted in its strict zero-Covid policy to stamp out an Omicron-fuelled wave, ordering lockdowns in various cities and shuttering factories and ports.
The impact of this strategy on the world’s second-largest economy was revealed Monday when official data showed that retail sales and industrial production in April on-year had slumped to their lowest levels in more than two years.
World markets have also been roiled by surging inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine — leaving investors jittery.
“Markets remain in fight or flight mode while rolling the dice on recession odds,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said.
“Investors’ hopes remain elevated that yesterday’s worse than expected Chinese outruns could prove to be a ‘whatever it takes’ moment, and local policymakers will step hard on the stimulus pedal.”
Authorities in Shanghai — China’s biggest city — over the weekend announced they will reopen in stages, news that provided some cheer to Asian markets.
China also announced measures to help young people find jobs — as the urban unemployment rate rose to its highest in over two years — while officials have lowered the mortgage rate for first-time homebuyers.
On Tuesday, Asia markets opened higher with Hong Kong leading the way — the Hang Sang Index rose more than two percent.
– Commodities concerns –
In commodities trade, wheat prices soared to a record after major producer India banned its export because of a heatwave hitting production.
New Delhi said the move was needed to protect the food security of its 1.4 billion people in the face of lower production and steep global prices.
Global wheat prices had already surged on tight supply concerns since Russia’s February invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, which previously accounted for 12 percent of world exports.
By Monday’s close of the Euronext market, the price of wheat jumped to 438.25 euros ($456.68) per tonne, breaking the previous closing record of 422.40 struck on March 7, according to trader Damien Vercambre at grains brokerage Inter-Courtage.
Oil also jumped overnight, and by Tuesday morning US crude benchmark WTI traded at nearly $114 a barrel.
“The EU’s rising tensions with Russia and the resulting uncertainties over the bloc’s oil-and-gas supply remain front-and-centre,” Vandana Hari, founder of Vanda Insights in Singapore, told Bloomberg.
“Having said that, with a $10 jump since last Tuesday, it’s hard to see much more upside in crude unless events take a sudden turn for the worse.”
– Key figures at around 0230 GMT –
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 2.1 percent at 20,375.29
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,080.78
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 26,601.03 (break)
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $114.04 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $113.87 per barrel
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0440 from $1.0436 at 2030 GMT Monday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2334 from $1.2323
Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.63 pence from 84.67 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 129.21 yen from 129.08 yen
New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 32,223.42 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,464.80 (close)
— Bloomberg News contributed to this story —