- highest Chinese PMI since April 2012; 52.6 vs. 50.5 expected
- Hong Kong leads Asian stocks; The dollar goes down
- Treasuries contracted but held steady as US ISM survey approached
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks rebounded from their lowest levels in two months and headed for their best day in seven weeks on Wednesday, as data showed that manufacturing activity in China expanded at the fastest pace in more than a decade. Gloomy markets yet.
China’s official manufacturing PMI stood at 52.6 last month versus 50.1 in January and was ahead of analysts’ expectations of 50.5, giving investors hope that China’s recovery can offset the global slowdown.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) jumped 1.5%, leaving behind a two-month low it hit in early trading hours, before the data was released.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (.HSI) rose 3.2%, with developers and consumer technology stocks advancing and only two stocks retreating. Chinese stocks also got a boost, with China’s CSI 300 Index (.CSI300) jumping more than 1%.
Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) rose 0.2% and S&P 500 futures gave up early losses to trade flat. European futures rose 0.1%.
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“The Chinese PMI data for February this time around has taken on more significance due to the usual lack of hard data for January/February until later in the month,” said Alvin Tan, Head of Asia Currency Strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
“China’s February official PMIs and Caixin’s manufacturing PMI surprised strongly to the upside, and markedly higher than the previous January numbers.”
In the currency markets, the dollar’s gains in February seemed to be running out of steam and Asian currencies advanced on the strength of Chinese data – even with weak economic updates from India, Australia and South Korea.
The Chinese yuan rose about 0.4% – the highest level in more than a month – to 6.9063 per dollar. The Australian dollar reversed losses after weaker-than-expected Australian growth and inflation numbers, rising 0.3% to $0.6751.
The New Zealand dollar, which fell about 4% last month, rebounded from its 200-day moving average and rose 0.5% to $0.6217. The yen settled at 136.35.
Keeping gains in check was concern about interest rates staying higher for longer in advanced economies, which was behind a shaky February in stock and bond markets.
The next influx of economic indicators is likely to be crucial as markets gauge whether future interest rate hikes are being adequately priced in now.
Higher-than-expected inflation readings in Europe overnight prompted bond selling, before an unexpected drop in US confidence numbers offered a glimmer of hope that rate hikes could be drastic and may be close to peaking.
Two-year Treasury yields, a guide to short-term interest rate expectations in the US, are close to a four-month high, but at 4.8347%, below the November peak of 4.8830%. The 10-year record yield was 3.9396% in Asia.
Commodities rose as China hopes for demand, Brent crude futures rose 0.6% to $83.94 a barrel.
Gains stabilized after rain fell in parts of the US winter wheat belt, and optimism about an export deal between Russia and Ukraine prompted investors to unwind some long positions.
Geopolitics also kept nerves high in the background. US President Joe Biden’s visit to Kiev and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s abandonment of the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the United States signaled a hardening of positions.
China, which signaled its support for Russia by sending its top diplomat to Moscow last week, issued a call for peace though it was met with skepticism and Washington has said in recent days it fears China could send weapons to Russia.
“If Beijing sends weapons to Russia, it risks a rapid geopolitical collapse of the global economy,” said Jan Lambrigets, head of research at Rabobank. “The markets haven’t even begun to think about what this might mean.”
Editing by Himani Sarkar
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