HONG KONG, April 12 — Asian markets were mixed today as a volatile week drew to a close with investors preparing for the start of the corporate earnings season.
With few fresh developments on the China-US trade talks, the rally that characterised the first three months of the year appears to be running out of steam, while Donald Trump’s threats of tariffs against Europe has jolted confidence.
Data today showed China’s imports falling more than expected in March, signalling ongoing fragility in the world’s number two economy, even as exports enjoyed a sharp rise.
Total imports sank 7.6 per cent on-year last month while exports rose 14.2 per cent, the data from China’s customs administration showed.
Economists polled by Bloomberg had expected a slight 0.2 per cent rise in imports with exports projected to grow 6.5 per cent.
The readings come after a run of positive releases from Beijing including forecast-beating factory activity and a jump in inflation in the world’s second largest economy.
“Recent improvements in China activity data... expectations of further feed-through from policy stimulus to the real economy and signs of some partial form of US-China trade truce have all given rise to a more bullish China sentiment,” said Jasslyn Yeo, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.
With Wall Street providing a weak lead, Asian equities struggled for direction.
Tokyo finished 0.7 per cent higher as the dollar’s rebound encouraged buying, while Shanghai pared earlier losses to close marginally down.
Hong Kong was off 0.2 per cent in late trade, while Sydney and Seoul both ended the day well into positive territory. Singapore was down in late trade.
Europe’s main stock markets were mixed in opening trade, with London’s benchmark index flat while Paris and Frankfurt were lower.
The business reporting season gets underway today in the United States and observers will be looking for a read of the corporate landscape in the first three months of the year.
The firms’ forecasts will be pored over but overall expectations for the quarter are low.
“Earnings season is still to come and that’s going to be really interesting,” Steven Glass, Sydney-based fund manager at Pengana Holdings, told Bloomberg TV.
“We are finding value in emerging markets but we do think the US is looking vulnerable due to valuations.”
In commodities markets, West Texas oil futures rose again as they prepared to chalk up their sixth consecutive weekly advance, the best streak since 2016.
Key figures around 0720 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Up 0.7 per cent at 21,870.56 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 29,771.14
Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,188.63 (close)
Pound/dollar: UP at USUS$1.3062 from US$1.3058 at 2100 GMT
Euro/pound: UP at 86.40 pence from 86.20 pence
Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1283 from US$1.1253
Dollar/yen: UP at ¥111.86 from ¥111.66
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 23 cents at US$63.81 per barrel
Oil - Brent Crude: UP 17 cents at US$71.00 per barrel
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 per cent at 26,143.05 (close)
London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,417.31 — AFP