Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as the relentless surge in coronavirus cases around the world offset investor optimism over the Federal Reserve’s dovish policy statement.
Fed policymakers renewed their pledge to utilize all means at their disposal to set the virus-hit economy on the path to recovery but warned that the outlook would depend on the course the virus takes.
Chinese shares ended lower as the country reported 105 new coronavirus cases on the mainland, up from 101 the previous day, with 96 of them in the far western region of Xinjiang. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 7.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,286.82.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid 172.55 points, or 0.7 percent, to 24,710.59. The Hong Kong economy contracted for the fourth straight quarter as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on household spending and investment and exports in the second quarter, official data revealed.
GDP decreased 9 percent year-on-year after a 9.1 percent slump in the first three months of the year, according to advance estimates from the Census and Statistics Department.
Japanese shares ended lower as fresh coronavirus cases exceeded the 1,000 mark for the first time, with Osaka and Aichi setting daily records. Encouraging retail sales data helped limit the downside to some extent.
Retail sales in Japan were down an annual 1.2 percent in June, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. That beat forecasts for a decline of 6.5 percent following the 12.3 percent drop in May. On a monthly basis, retail sales jumped a seasonally adjusted 13.1 percent after gaining 2.1 percent in the previous month.
The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 57.88 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,339.23, while the broader Topix closed 0.6 percent lower at 1,539.47.
ANA Holdings tumbled 2.8 percent after the airline said it suffered a record quarterly net loss in April-June. Chemical and cosmetics company Kao Corporation slumped 5.2 percent after cutting its profit forecast for the year through March.
Meanwhile, Australian markets advanced as the Fed expressed its commitment to maintain its bond purchases. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 44.70 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,051.10, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 49.50 points, or 0.8 percent, at 6,177.50.
Mining giant Rio Tinto gained 1.1 percent as it raised dividend and said it saw a sharp V-shaped recovery in China.
Fortescue Metals Group surged 4.2 percent as it beat its full-year iron ore estimates with record shipments in the fourth quarter.
Lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia edged up 0.3 percent after setting aside an additional $300 million for its customer remediation budget. The other three banks fell between 0.2 percent and half a percent.
Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay advanced 1.6 percent and accounting software company Xero added 2.9 percent after tech stocks again helped the lead the way higher on Wall Street overnight.
On the data front, the total number of building permits issued in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent month on month in June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said – coming in at 12,213. That missed expectations for an increase of 1.5 percent following the 15.8 percent contraction in May. On a yearly basis, consents were down 15.8 percent.
Seoul stocks edged up slightly to extend gains for the fourth consecutive session amid continued strong foreign investor buying. The benchmark Kospi climbed 0.8 percent in intraday trade to reach its highest level since early October 2018 before paring gains to end the session up 3.85 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,267.01.
Heavyweight Samsung Electronics ended flat despite reporting a 23 percent jump in second quarter operating profit on strong chip sales. Its peer SK Hynix rallied 2.5 percent.
Business sentiment in South Korea’s manufacturing sector strengthened in July, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea showed with an index score of 57.0 – up from 51.0 in June. The outlook for the following month also rose by 9 points to 60.0.
New Zealand’ shares ended notably higher, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index rising 92.58 points, or 0.8 percent, to 11,692.02.
The total number of building permits issued in New Zealand was up a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent month-on-month in June, Statistics New Zealand said today – coming in at 3,477. That follows the upwardly revised 42 percent spike in May (originally 35.6 percent).
U.S. stocks rose overnight as a number of big-name companies reported better than expected quarterly results, tech leaders testified before Congress and the Fed repeated a pledge to use its “full range of tools” to support the economy after keeping interest rates near zero, as expected.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 1.4 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 1.2 percent.
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