Asian Shares Rally Despite Weak China Data

Asian stocks posted strong gains on Friday as reports of promising early data related to a potential Covid-19 treatment from Gilead Sciences and U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to reopen businesses helped investors shrug off weak economic data from China.

Chinese shares rose as a slew of data came broadly in line with expectations. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7 percent to close at 2,838.49, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 1.6 percent at 24,380.

China’s first quarter GDP shrank 6.8 percent in 2020 as compared to a year ago, marking the first decline since 1992, as the world’s second largest economy took a huge hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

Fixed asset investment in the first quarter tumbled an annual 16.1 percent and industrial production dipped 1.1 percent year-on-year in March, while retail sales plunged 15.8 percent in the month, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Japanese shares rose on hopes for a return to normal after Trump announced plans to gradually reopen the U.S. economy. The impact of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coronavirus measures was limited.

The Nikkei 225 Index spiked 607.06 points, or 3.2 percent, to 19,897.26, its highest closing since March 9. The broader Topix jumped 1.4 percent to finish at 1,442.54.

Semiconductor-related stocks advanced after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s largest contract chipmaker whose clients include iPhone maker Apple, reported a near doubling in first-quarter net profit. Tokyo Electron gained 3.9 percent and Advantest added 6.5 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank surged 6.9 percent and Fast Retailing rose 6.3 percent. Exporters finished broadly higher, with Honda Motor shares soaring 8.3 percent. Canon, Toyota Motor, Panasonic and Sony gained 2-4 percent.

Australian markets rose sharply as investors reacted to big news about the clinical success of Gilead Science’s anti-viral treatment Remdesivir.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 71.20 points, or 1.3 percent, to 5,487.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 77.10 points, or 1.4 percent, at 5,544.70.

Mining giant Rio Tinto rallied 3.3 percent after it reported an increase in first-quarter Pilbara iron ore output and shipments compared to the prior-year period. BHP rose 1.6 percent and smaller rival Fortescue Metals gained half a percent.

Meanwhile, gold miner Evolution Mining lost 2.7 percent and Newcrest Mining shed 2.6 percent. Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac ended slightly lower. In the oil sector, Origin Energy jumped 3.6 percent and Oil Search soared 4.2 percent.

Seoul stocks soared as foreign investors lapped up large-cap shares on hopes that the global coronavirus outbreak is peaking.

Closer to home, the country reported 22 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the nation’s total infections to 10,635, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The benchmark Kospi jumped 57.46 points, or 3.1 percent, to close at 1,914.53, led by tech stocks. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics surged 4.9 percent and No. 2 chipmaker S K Hynix advanced 3.4 percent.

South Korea’s jobless rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 percent in March from 3.3 percent in February, a government report showed. A similar unemployment rate was seen in the same month last year.

New Zealand shares rallied to extend gains for the fourth straight session. The benchmark NZX-50 Index surged up 305.53 points, or 2.9 percent, to 10,778.72.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index closed marginally higher. The country’s non-oil
domestic exports increased 17.6 percent year-on-year in March following a 3.1 percent rise in February, data from Enterprise Singapore revealed. Economists had expected an 8.9 percent decline.

U.S. stocks rose overnight even as reports showed another spike in the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits and a slump in new home construction.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.7 percent.

Amazon and Netflix jumped to new record closing highs on expectations they will benefit the most from the coronavirus shutdown.

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