Asian Shares Fall On China Inflation Data

Asian stocks fell broadly on Friday as U.S.-China tensions and concerns about rising inflation in China overshadowed investor optimism over the global economic recovery.

During a debate on the global economy Thursday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell assured markets that the U.S. central bank would continue supporting the world’s largest economy without stoking inflation.

Chinese shares fell as the latest inflation data surprised to the upside and raised worries about further tightening of policy.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended down 31.88 points, or 0.9 percent, at 3,450.68, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped 1.1 percent to 28,698.80.

Consumer prices in China were up 0.4 percent year-on-year in March, the National Bureau of Statistics said today. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent following the 0.2 percent contraction in the previous month.

The bureau also said that producer prices jumped an annual 4.4 percent in March, beating expectations for an increase of 3.5 percent and up sharply from the 1.7 percent gain a month earlier.

Japanese shares eked out modest gains on hopes for a robust earnings season. The Nikkei 225 Index edged up 59.08 points, or 0.2 percent, to 29,768.06, while the broader Topix ended 0.4 percent higher at 1,959.47.

Hitachi climbed 2.7 percent on reports that the industrial conglomerate was in talks to sell its metals unit. Industrial robot and semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker Yaskawa Electric Corp. ended little changed ahead of its earnings release.

Australian markets ended slightly lower to snap a five-day rally. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished marginally lower at 6,995.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended with a positive bias at 7,252.30 after data showed strong sales and new orders lifted activity in the services sector in March.

Healthcare stocks fell as Australia joined a host of countries in restricting use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine due to clotting concerns. CSL lost 1 percent and Cochlear gave up 0.4 percent.

Weak iron ore prices weighed on the mining sector, with heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ending down 0.8 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Technology stocks bucked the weak trend, tracking gains among U.S. peers overnight. Afterpay advanced 1.2 percent, WiseTech Global gained 0.3 percent and EML Payments added 0.4 percent.

Energy stocks ended broadly lower, while gold miners Evolution Mining, Northern Star Resources and Newcrest climbed 1-2 percent.

Seoul stocks snapped their weeklong winning streak as valuation concerns returned to the fore. The benchmark Kospi slipped 1.38 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,131.88. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics gave up 1.3 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2.8 percent.

New Zealand shares fell, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending down 58.25 points, or 0.5 percent, at 12,574.35, dragged down by healthcare firms and financials. Pacific Edge shares soared more than 21 percent after the company said its bladder cancer diagnostic tests are now covered by U.S. insurance giant United Healthcare.

U.S. stocks rose overnight after Fed Chair Jerome Powell downplayed the risk of inflation, arguing that upward pressure on prices will be temporary and the central bank would react if inflation expectations start “moving persistently and materially” above a target threshold.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent and the Dow inched up 0.2 percent.

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