Asia shares gain despite Chinese Covid case numbers rising

SYDNEY, Nov 23 — Asian share markets were mostly in positive territory today despite rising Covid-19 cases in mainland China leaving investors uncertain over how much the fresh outbreaks could slow the reopening of the world’s second-largest economy.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3 per cent, after US stocks ended the previous session with gains. The index is up 12 per cent so far this month.

Australian shares were up 0.7 per cent, with most gains coming from mining and resources giants as a result of higher oil prices. Japan’s stock market was closed for a national holiday.

New Zealand’s central bank raised interest rates by 75 basis points — its largest ever move — on Wednesday to a near 14-year high of 4.25 per cent and flagged more hikes are on the way as it struggles to contain stubbornly high inflation.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.6 per cent in early trade while China’s CSI300 Index opened broadly flat.

China today reported 29,157 new Covid infections for November 22, according to the National Health Commission, compared with 28,127 new cases a day earlier. Case numbers in Beijing and Shanghai are steadily rising, prompting authorities to close some facilities.

“The biggest story for investors in Asia is still the China reopening,” said Suresh Tantia, Credit Suisse’s senior investment strategist in Singapore.

“We had seen China markets rally up to 20 per cent but those expectations are being dialled back, we think a reopening will be a slower process and will not be done in a hurry. That means a lot of investors are trimming their exposure, cutting their losses or booking any profits they might have made on China.”

Meanwhile the release of US Federal Reserve minutes from its November policy meeting later today is being keenly awaited by investors as they look for insight of how officials view economic conditions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2 per cent to 34,098.1 on Tuesday, the S&P 500 gained 1.4 per cent to 4,003.58 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.4 per cent to 11,174.41. Energy stocks led the gains, stoked by rising oil prices.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose to 3.7578 per cent compared with its US close of 3.758 per cent on Tuesday.

Two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 4.5227 per cent compared with a US close of 4.517 per cent.

The dollar dropped 0.02 per cent against the yen to 141.21.

The European single currency EUR= was up 0.02 per cent on the day at US$1.0302, while the dollar index =USD, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was down at 107.14.

“The US dollar lost a little of its recent gains (as) central bankers’ consensus about how much more interest rates should rise is fraying,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Tobin Gorey wrote on Wednesday.

“Smaller or fewer rate rises are perhaps not a cause for optimism, it is cause for less pessimism.”

Oil remained higher on Wednesday after top exporter Saudi Arabia said Opec+ would maintain output cuts and could take further steps to balance the market.

In Asian trading, US crude ticked up 0.3 per cent to US$81.15 a barrel. Brent crude rose to US$88.35 per barrel.

Gold was slightly lower. Spot gold was traded at US$1740.09 per ounce.

While the FTX exchange collapse continues to roil cryptocurrency markets, Bitcoin was 0.33 per cent higher in Asian trading hours to US$16,184. — Reuters