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Jan 21, 2019

Asia stocks higher as China says its economy grew in line with expectations last year

Eustance Huang

Asia Pacific markets started the trading week with gains despite China reporting that its economy grew at the lowest official pace in 28 years.
The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.6 percent in 2018, which matched analysts’ expectations, and was lower than a revised 6.8 percent growth in 2017. Fourth quarter GDP growth was 6.4 percent, which was also in line with expectations.
“I think what we’re seeing actually in the fourth quarter is that while the economy is decelerating, we actually still have some of the supports,” Helen Zhu, head of China equities at BlackRock, told CNBC’s “Street Signs ” on Monday. “For example, for most of the quarter, from the export front loading impact that we had probably before the Argentina G-20 (summit) when people’s expectations regarding trade became a little bit more optimistic.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to a 90-day pause in tariff escalation at the G-20 summit in Argentina late in 2018.
While Beijing’s official GDP figures are seen as one of the crucial indicators of China’s economic health, many outside experts have expressed skepticism about the veracity of the numbers.
Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, wrote in a note that China’s GDP numbers are “not an accurate gauge” of its economic growth. Still, he pointed out, the gap between the actual figures and the official targets usually shapes the government’s policy stance.
“Falling producer prices and new export orders point to a slowdown in China’s growth momentum,” Yeung added. “To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 2019, President Xi (Jinping) will still likely launch growth-supportive policies.”
The mainland Chinese markets, closely watched as a result of the ongoing U.S.-China trade fight, saw gains on the back of the data release. The Shanghai composite rose more than 0.5 percent to close at about 2,610.51 while the Shenzhen composite gained 0.607 percent to end its trading day at around 1,330.17. The Shenzhen component also advanced 0.592 percent to close at approximately 7,626.24.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index saw gains of 0.39 percent to close at 27,196.54.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

NIKKEINikkei 225 IndexNIKKEI20719.3353.260.26
HSIHang Seng IndexHSI27196.54105.730.39
ASX 200S&P/ASX 200ASX 2005890.4010.800.18
KOSPIKOSPI IndexKOSPI2124.610.330.02
CNBC 100CNBC 100 ASIA IDXCNBC 1007677.3419.380.25
Rest of Asia gains
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.26 percent to close at 20,719.33 while the Topix index rose 0.56 percent to finish its trading day at 1,566.37. Shares of automaker Nissan advanced 0.44 percent after details of former CEO Carlos Ghosn’s renewed bail request emerged.
In South Korea, the Kospi ended its trading day largely flat at 2,124.61 while Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 rose 0.18 percent to close at 5,890.40, with the sectors mixed
Australian oil stocks mostly rose as the energy subindex advanced 0.49 percent. Crude oil prices gained on Friday following news that China put forward a plan to eliminate its trade surplus with the United States. During the afternoon of Asian trading hours on Monday, international benchmark Brent crude futures dipped 0.1 percent to $62.64 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also slipped fractionally to $53.79 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, changed hands at 96.233 after touching an earlier high of 96.374.
The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 109.60 after seeing an earlier low of 109.76. The Australian dollar was at $0.7166 after touching an earlier high of $0.7185.
— Reuters and CNBC’s Huileng Tan contributed to this report.

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