• Asia markets mostly down after China data


    HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s stock market ticked higher on Wednesday but Shanghai sank after a further slowdown in Chinese economic growth, while Tokyo edged down on a stronger yen.

    Disappointing US retail sales data dampened hopes of an early interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve, causing a drag on the dollar.

    Shanghai tumbled 1.24 percent, or 51.40 points, to 4,084.16 but Hong Kong closed up 0.21 percent, or 57.33 points, at 27,618.82.

    Tokyo ended down 0.20 percent, or 38.92 points, at 19,869.76 and Sydney fell 0.64 percent, or 38.15 points, to 5,908.4. Seoul rose 0.39 percent, or 8.24 points, to 2,119.96.

    China said its economy expanded 7.0 percent in the first three months of 2015, slightly better than forecast in an Agence France-Presse survey but much slower than October-December. It was also the worst for a single quarter since the first three months of 2009, in the depths of the global financial crisis.

    The figures are the latest to highlight a slowdown in the economy and will likely increase expectations Beijing will announce more stimulus on top of two interest rate rises since November.

    The economy grew last year at its slowest pace in almost a quarter of a century, buffeted by weak manufacturing, slow domestic demand and low government investment, among other factors.

    Hopes for more loosening have fanned a rally in Hong Kong and Shanghai stocks. In the past nine sessions Hong Kong has soared almost 15 percent as mainlanders pick up what they consider cheap equities following a year-long run-up in Shanghai that has almost doubled its value.

    Stimulus urgency
    “It is urgent for policymakers to do more now to stimulate the economy,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist at Credit Agricole SA in Hong Kong.

    “We expect acceleration in fiscal spending and in government-orchestrated infrastructure projects, as well as more monetary easing,” he told Bloomberg News.

    In forex markets the dollar struggled after losing ground in New York in response to the retail sales report. It bought 119.53 yen Wednesday compared with 119.44 yen in US trade, but well down from the 119.80 yen earlier Tuesday in Tokyo.

    Expectations for an early Federal Reserve rate rise diminished after official data showed retail sales rose 0.9 percent in March. While the figure reversed a three-month slump, it was slightly weaker than estimated. Excluding auto sales, retail sales rose only 0.4 percent instead of the 0.7 percent increase expected.

    The euro bought $1.0605 and 126.72 yen against $1.0628 and 127.24 yen.

    The single currency retreated after rising Tuesday in response to a Eurostat report showing eurozone industrial production rebounded a solid 1.1 percent in February after falling in January.

    On Wall Street Tuesday the Dow gained 0.33 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.16 percent but the Nasdaq slipped 0.22 percent.

    Oil prices edged higher. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery gained 82 cents to $54.11 while Brent crude for May rose 79 cents to $59.22.

    Gold fetched $1,190.35 against $1,187.95 late Tuesday.



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