Asian Shares End On Muted Note After Weak China Data


Asian stocks ended on a muted note Friday as weak manufacturing data from China as well as lingering trade tensions offset upbeat corporate earnings results from the U.S.

The two-day U.S.-China trade talks ended without anything concrete results, though U.S. President Donald Trump said the trade dispute would hopefully be resolved before the March 1 deadline.

Investors also awaited cues from the latest U.S. jobs report due later in the day. Economists expect employment to rise by 165,000 jobs in January after an addition of 312,000 jobs in December. The jobless rate is expected to hold at 3.9 percent.

China's Shanghai Composite index rallied 33.66 points or 1.30 percent to close at 2,618,23 even as weak data reinforced investor concerns of a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped 11.73 points to close at 27,930.74.

A private survey showed that China's factory activity continued to weaken last month, providing the latest evidence of a prolonged economic slowdown.

The Caixin/Markit PMI dropped to 48.3 in January from 49.7 in the previous month. Analysts had expected a score of 49.5.

Japanese shares finished marginally higher as investors digested mixed economic readings. While Japan's manufacturing activity grew at its slowest pace in 29 months in January, the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 2.4 percent in December from 2.5 percent the month before.

The Nikkei average edged up 14.90 points to 20,788.39, while the broader Topix index closed 0.18 percent lower at 1,564.63.

Exporters ended mixed, with Canon climbing 1 percent and Sony rising 0.6 percent, while Panasonic declined 0.9 percent. Banks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial fell around 2 percent.

The manufacturing sector in South Korea continued to contract in January, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed today with a manufacturing PMI score of 48.3.

Australian markets finished marginally lower as continued gains in the mining sector were offset by losses among banks and energy stocks.

Investors ignored the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showing that the country's manufacturing sector moved to expansion in January.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index ended at 5,862.80 and 5,935.30, respectively.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose around half a percent to extend recent strong gains as iron ore futures hovered at 17-month highs after a dam disaster in Brazil.

Whitehaven Coal declined 1.6 percent after reports that some ports in northeastern China have stopped customs clearings on imported coking coal.

Gold miners Newcrest Mining and Northern Star gained around 1 percent as gold prices hovered near nine-month highs after the Fed's dovish message.

Private hospital operator Healthscope rallied 3.8 percent after it agreed to be acquired by Canadian investment company Brookfield Asset Management for A$4.5 billion.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB ended modestly lower ahead of the publication of the Kenneth Hayne royal commission recommendations on Monday.

New Zealand shares ended modestly higher, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finishing up 13.83 points or 0.15 percent at 8,999.17.

Seoul stocks ended little changed as the U.S.-China trade talks ended with no deal. Markets in Malaysia and Taiwan were closed for Federal Territory Day and the Lunar New Year holidays, respectively.

India's Sensex was modestly higher, giving up some early gains after the Interim Budget proposed to give full rebate to tax payers having annual income up to Rs 5 lakh.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as investors eyed ongoing trade talks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.4 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.9 percent on the back of strong earnings from Facebook and a dovish message from the Fed. The Dow slipped 0.1 percent as DuPont reported lower-than-expected profits.