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Asia report: Markets mostly lower as China beats on first quarter GDP

By Josh White

Date: Tuesday 17 Apr 2018

Asia report: Markets mostly lower as China beats on first quarter GDP

(ShareCast News) - Markets in Asia finished Tuesday's session mostly lower as investors sifted through a tsunami of data from China, with forecast-beating GDP growth at the top of the agenda.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 eked out gains of 0.06% to 21,847.59, as the yen strengthened 0.07% on the dollar to last trade at JPY 107.05.

Tokyo trading bobbed above and below the waterline for much of the day, with the broader Topix finished down 0.36% as most sectors other than oil ended in the red.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was down 1.39% at 3,067.52, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite was 2.2% behind at 1,784.56.

On the data front, the economy of the People's Republic grew 6.8% in the first quarter, beating Reuters-polled consensus forecasts for growth of 6.7%.

Other data out of Beijing during the day was mixed, with industrial output growth for March and first quarter fixed asset investment missing expectations.

Retail sales for March, on the other hand, beat what the market was forecasting.

"China's economy entered 2018 with solid growth momentum," noted Oxford Economics head of Asia economics Louis Kuijs.

"But momentum slowed in March, compared to the first two months, pointing to slower growth ahead."

South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.15% to 2,453.77, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong slid 0.83% to 30,062.75.

Carmakers and steel producers were among the gainers in Seoul, while technology heavyweight Samsung Electronics was down 0.72%.

Hyundai Motor was ahead 2.94% after reports emerged that Elliott Management was happy with the carmaker's plans to restructure.

Elliott controls more than $1bn worth of Hyundai stock.

The reticent movements in Asia came despite a solid session on Wall Street overnight, as attention there moved from ongoing geopolitical tensions to a heavy corporate earnings season.

Data from Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S suggests first quarter results in the US are anticipated to rise almost 19% compared to the same time last year.

Trade tensions weren't entirely off the stovetop, however, with the US Department of Commerce hitting Chinese mobile technology giant ZTE with a denial of export privileges.

The ban prevents American firms from selling to ZTE for the next seven years.

It came after ZTE, which makes cellular network equipment as well as inexpensive mobile devices for rebranding by Western networks, did not come to an agreement with Washington after it broke trade embargoes by shipping gear to Iran and North Korea.

Oil prices were in positive territory as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last ahead 0.03% at $71.44 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate up 0.08% at $66.27.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was flat, rising just 0.2 points to finish at 5,841.50, with the hefty financials subindex dragging on the broader index as it lost 0.33%.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 was down 0.7% at 8,344.52, led lower by airport operator AIAL, which was off 2.7%.

Construction conglomerate Fletcher saw its shares were halted from trading in Wellington, as it announced a NZD 750m rights issue at a 23% discount to its last trading price.

It was part of the board's NZD 1.25bn finance plan, drawn up in a bid to underpin the ailing group's balance sheet, which has taken some serious hits from a number of public projects, amid a booming construction sector in New Zealand.

Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.12% at AUD 1.2866, and the Kiwi retreating 0.27% to NZD 1.3619.


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