Asian stocks up as markets shrug off China data

Asian stocks up as markets shrug off China data

Hong Kong: Asian stocks rose on Monday on strong corporate earnings and shrugged off news that Chinese manufacturing shrank in July amid investor hopes that the world’s fastest growing major economy will expand strongly.

The high-yielding Australian dollar rose, helped by a rise in stocks. The US dollar hit a three-month low against a basket of currencies, hurt by persistent worries that the US economy’s recovery is losing steam.

HSBC’s China Purchasing Managers’ Index fell below the boom-bust line of 50 in July for the first time since the depths of the global downturn in March 2009. The index dropped to 49.4 from 50.4 in June.

A figure above 50 denotes expansion. HSBC played down the drop, which coincides with signs of weakness in the United States.

Although the index pointed to a month-on-month contraction in manufacturing, it was still consistent with annual growth in Chinese industrial production of 11-13 percent, HSBC said.

“There is no need to panic because this is just a slowdown, not a meltdown," Qu Hongbin, chief economist for China at HSBC, said in a statement.

Financial markets took the drop in the PMI in stride.

Asian stocks extended the morning’s rise with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index up 1.5% as tech and consumer discretionary led gains.

Investors were relieved that a companion PMI, produced for China’s National Bureau of Statistics and released on Sunday, held firmly above 50.

“July’s PMI did not fall through 50; however, we saw weakness almost across the board, echoing our view that the economy will keep moderating but not collapse," said Dong Tao, head of non-Japan Asia economics at Credit Suisse.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.6% as investors snapped up shares of firms with robust corporate earnings, helping the market shrug off a strong yen and lacklustre U.S. economic data.

Shares of Honda Motor jumped more than 4% after the company reported its best quarterly profit in 2-years and raised its forecasts despite the sharp rise in the yen.

Market players will continue to focus on macroeconomic factors this week with PMIs across Europe and US manufacturing data expected later on Monday and the closely watched US non-farm payrolls numbers scheduled for Friday.

The dollar has been hobbled by worries over the US economy after a series of US economic data in the past month undershot market expectations, and its slide has been exacerbated by some bearish signals on technical charts.

The conflict between strong earnings and lacklustre economic news has held US stocks in a tight range throughout July.

Over two-thirds of the S&P 500 constituents have reported earnings with about 80% of those beating analyst forecasts, according to data from Thomson Reuters Starmine.

Investors will look for signs that strong corporate earnings in the United States translate into a pick-up in hiring.

Sluggish jobs growth, marked by a 9.5% unemployment rate, is the biggest obstacle to the economy’s recovery from the most brutal recession since the 1930s.

The dollar hit a three-month low against a basket of currencies at $81.414 and was seen stuck in a downtrend due to concerns that the US economy’s recovery was losing momentum.

The dollar stood near ¥86.49, close to an eight-month low of ¥85.95 hit on Friday after US gross domestic product slowed more than expected in the second quarter.

The greenback is within striking distance of a 14-year high of around ¥85 reached in November, fueling speculation that Japanese authorities could conduct intervention to protect their exporters from a rising currency.

“Excessive foreign exchange moves are undesirable because of the impact they have on the economy and financial markets," Japan’s Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters.

The Australian dollar hit three-month highs on Monday with the New Zealand dollar in tow, as a soft US dollar, higher Asian equities and light short-covering activity all helped to lift the pair.