January 17, 2020 / 3:50 AM / a month ago

Asian shares firm as China data show signs of easing economic strains

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Asian shares rose on Friday after data in China showed pressure on the world’s second biggest economy may be starting to diminish.

Investors look at computer screens showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

The news along with easing trade tensions with the United States underpinned riskier assets, even as some markets took a breather in late afternoon trade.

European bourses were expected to extend the global rally after Wall Street posted more records. In early European trades, pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.4%, German DAX futures gained 0.54% and FTSE futures added 0.28%.

China’s economy grew 6.0% in the fourth quarter of 2019 from a year earlier, and 2019 growth of 6.1% was the slowest in 29 years, held back by anaemic domestic demand and the damaging trade war with the United States.

The data largely reinforced recent signs of an improvement in Chinese business confidence as trade tensions eased, with Beijing and Washington sealing an initial deal on Wednesday to defuse their damaging tariff war.

Beijing is widely expected to introduce more stimulus measures in 2020 amid sluggish investment and demand.

“This is all good news and positive for the China story. All the data coming out, from industrial production, fixed asset to retail sales, they are all showing signs of bottoming out as the trade cycle bottoms out,” said Daniel Gerard, senior multi-asset strategist at State Street Global Markets in Hong Kong.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.18% in afternoon trade, trimming earlier gains of as much as 0.4%.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index ended 0.14% higher, down from an earlier rise of as much as 0.67%. The index has rallied more than 8.5% since the beginning of December, fuelled by hopes for improved trade relations with the United States.

Australian shares added 0.32% to a fifth consecutive record high close, and Seoul’s KOSPI rose 0.11%. Japan’s Nikkei finished up 0.45% after reaching 15-month highs earlier in the session.

MSCI’s global share index touched record highs and was last up 0.05%.

Analysts say global equities may find it difficult to maintain momentum from their recent rally as optimism over the U.S.-China trade truce gives way to uncertainty over the next steps in trade talks.

While a Phase 1 deal signed by China and the United States on Wednesday is seen as defusing the 18-month row that has hit global growth, experts say it is unlikely to provide much balm for broader frictions between the two countries. Most of the tariffs imposed during the dispute remain in place and a number of thorny issues that sparked the conflict are still unresolved.

“The challenge from here is how long we can maintain these improvements,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec in Sydney.

“Speaking of the Aussie market specifically, a 6% gain in two weeks is obviously a massive challenge to replicate in the tail end of the month. You don’t really see 10, 11, 12% improvements over the course of a month without any gigantic positive catalysts.”

In the United States on Thursday, a combination of upbeat earnings from Morgan Stanley, rising U.S. retail sales, a strong labour market and robust manufacturing data helped to lift Wall Street to record highs.

The Phase 1 deal and the U.S. Senate’s approval of a revamp to the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement also boosted investor spirits.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.92% to 29,297.64, the S&P 500 gained 0.84% to 3,316.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.06% to 9,357.13.

The U.S. data supported the dollar, which held steady on Friday. The greenback hit eight-month highs against the yen before trimming its advance to rise 0.09% to 110.24. The euro was up 0.04% to buy $1.1140.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was lower at 97.292.

The rally in equities was mirrored in U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury notes, which saw yields rise to 1.8285% from their close on Thursday at 1.809%. Yields rise as prices fall.

Commodity markets were quiet, with Brent crude futures falling 4 cents to $64.58 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 6 cents to $58.46 per barrel.

Gold was 0.12% higher on the spot market at $1,554.38 per ounce.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Additional reporting by Noah Sin in Hong Kong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Shri Navaratnam

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