Nikkei, Shanghai indexes edge up; Hang Seng stays about flat
Asian markets were generally higher in early trading Monday, as investors continued to digest recent economic data.
On Sunday, a new report showed China’s trade with the U.S dropped sharply in August, as new tariffs by both sides were announced. Imports of American goods tumbled 22% in August from a year earlier to $10.3 billion, customs data showed Sunday. Exports to the United States, China’s biggest market, sank 16% to $44.4 billion.
More tariffs went into effect on Sept. 1, and the next round of tariffs on Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect Oct. 15. Last week, the U.S. and China said they have agreed to renew trade negotiations in early October.
On Monday, the Japanese government released revised economic growth data for the April-June quarter. The Cabinet Office said gross domestic product, or GDP — the total value of a nation’s goods and services — had grown at an annual rate of 1.3%.
That was slightly lower than the earlier estimate for 1.8% growth. The data showed that private demand had grown at a slower rate but government investment had risen higher than the earlier estimate.
Japan’s Nikkei NIK, +0.46% rose 0.5% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.08% slipped 0.1%, as pro-democracy protests continued over the weekend. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.36% gained 0.4% and the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite 399106, +1.05% advanced 0.9%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +0.43% rose 0.6%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, +0.10% , Singapore STI, +0.14% and Indonesia JAKIDX, +0.34% made slight gains. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.08% edged up 0.1%.
Among individual stocks, convenience-store chain FamilyMart 8028, +2.56% rose in Tokyo trading, as did telecom company NTT Docomo 9437, +2.18% , while SoftBank 9984, -1.09% fell. In Hong Kong, PetroChina 857, +3.51% and Sunny Optical 2382, +1.29% gained, while property developers such as New World 17, -0.59% sank. Samsung 005930, +0.97% advanced in South Korea, while Beach Energy BPT, -1.20% declined in Australia.
“A mixed set of leads sets Asia up for a muted start to a week focused on monetary policy. China’s trade data had been one to disappoint over the weekend after further monetary stimulus announcements,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
U.S. stock indexes finished last week little changed after a day of mostly quiet trading capped the S&P 500’s second straight weekly gain.
Traders had a muted reaction to new data showing that U.S. employers added fewer than expected jobs in August. The report also indicated more people entered the workforce last month, wages rose more than expected and the unemployment rate remained near the lowest level in five decades.
The jobs report was the latest in a mixed batch of economic data that investors scrutinized this week in search of clues about how the economy is weathering the costly trade war between the U.S. and China. Their concern: tariffs that each side has imposed on billions of goods may be dampening global economic growth and threatening to nudge the United States into a recession.
Mixed economic data aside, investors have been encouraged this week by news that envoys from Washington and Beijing plan to begin another round of trade talks next month.
The S&P 500 SPX, +0.09% inched up 2.71 points, or 0.1%, to 2,978.71. The benchmark index gained 1.8% for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.26% rose 69.31 points, or 0.3%, to 26,797.46. The Nasdaq COMP, -0.17% wobbled for much of the day, ending with a loss of 13.75 points, or 0.2%, to 8,103.07.
Markets have been turbulent in recent weeks as worries about the trade war have waxed and waned. But Wall Street got a modest bounce Friday afternoon after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is not expecting a U.S. or global recession. In remarks at a conference in Switzerland, Powell noted that the Fed is monitoring a number of uncertainties, including trade conflicts, adding the Fed will “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”
Economists said Friday’s jobs report did little to change their forecasts for the Fed to cut interest rates at its meeting in two weeks. Treasury yields dipped following the report, and traders remain nearly certain that the Fed will cut short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point.
It would be the second such cut since August, following nine increases since December 2015, as the central bank tries to cushion the blow on the economy from the U.S.-China trade war. U.S. manufacturing has already slid due to the tensions, and the worry is that businesses could pull back on their spending next.
Benchmark crude oil CLV19, +1.04% added 61 cents to $57.13 a barrel. It rose 22 cents to settle at $56.52 a barrel. Brent crude oil BRNX19, +0.93% , the international standard, added 49 cents to $62.03 a barrel.
The dollar USDJPY, -0.02% fell to 106.89 Japanese yen from 106.97 yen on Friday.