Asia report: Big Aussie banks lead regional rise

by | Mar 30, 2023

Most markets in the Asia-Pacific region closed higher on Thursday, with Australia’s benchmark index leading the gains, as concerns around the banking sector continued to fade.
The so-called ‘big four’ banks on Sydney’s bourse all turned in a substantial rise by the close.

“Month- and quarter-end flows have seen Asian equity markets trade with a subdued tone,” quipped TickMill market analyst Patrick Munnelly.

“The upbeat finish on Wall Street failed to follow into the Asian session in any meaningful fashion as investors closed out positions, without any data catalyst to take advantage of.

“Stateside, however, the Nasdaq is poised to close out the quarter with record returns, pointing to the potential for a technical new bull market set to be confirmed, as the tech heavy index is set to post 20% returns from its December lows.”

Stocks rise, Alibaba executive clarify restructure plans

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 0.36% to 27,782.93, while the Topix index dropped 0.61% to 1,983.32.

Japan Post fell 4.01%, while Isuzu Motors and Daiwa Securities Group both dropped more than 3% on Tokyo’s benchmark.

In China, the Shanghai Composite index rose 0.65% to 3,261.25, while the Shenzhen Component index increased 0.62% to 11,651.83.

Hisense Electric and Jason Furniture Hangzhou both saw significant gains in Shanghai, with stock prices rising 7.51% and 5.75%, respectively.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased 0.58% to 20,309.13, with several major companies seeing stock prices rise, including PetroChina, Country Garden Services, Country Garden Holdings, and Alibaba Group Holding.

Alibaba Group was 2.49% firmer after executives spoke further of its plan to split into six units on an investor call.

Chief executive officer Daniel Zhang said the restructuring would see Alibaba focus more on operating assets and capital, rather than business operations, with the separate entities having their own CEOs and boards, with Alibaba retaining boardroom seats at least in the short-term.

Finance chief Toby Xu added that after the restructuring, Alibaba would decide whether to continue controlling the separate entities that would have gone public.

In South Korea, the Kospi index rose 0.38% to 2,453.16, with Hanmi Science and SK IE Technology both seeing significant gains, with stock prices rising 4.78% and 4.53%, respectively.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.02% to 7,122.30, driven by strong gains in the financial sector, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking Corporation, and ANZ Group Holdings all seeing increases.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.67% to 11,933.17, with Genesis Energy and Pacific Edge both seeing significant gains, with stock prices rising 5.26% and 4.88%, respectively.

In currency markets, the yen was last 0.13% stronger on the dollar at JPY 132.69, while the Aussie was ahead 0.26% at AUD 1.4922, and the Kiwi advanced 0.19% on the greenback to change hands at NZD 1.6034.

Oil prices also saw gains, with Brent crude futures last rising 0.63% on ICE to $78.77 per barrel, while the NYMEX quote for West Texas Intermediate rose 0.82% to $73.57.

Japan PM unveils ‘new capitalism’, labour market tightens down under

In economic headlines, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to focus on “new capitalism”, focussed on wage hikes, innovation, and social problems in the country.

Kishida said the government would try to narrow the wage gap between domestic firms and their overseas rivals.

The prime minister also denied rumours of a snap election, according to Reuters, with Kishida saying he had no plans to dissolve parliament early.

Australia’s Bureau of Statistics meanwhile reported that the country’s job vacancies fell 1.5% in the February quarter, with retail trade leading the decline

However, job vacancies were still 92.4% higher than the pre-pandemic level in the same quarter in 2020.

Elsewhere, Bank Negara Malaysia said it expected the country’s economy to grow between 4% and 5% this year, supported by firm domestic demand, further improvements in the labour market, and higher tourism levels.

The central bank also spoke of upside risks to its inflation forecasts, which currently ranged between 2.8% and 3.8%, amid stronger demand from China as well as geopolitical tensions.

Finally, the Bank of Thailand raised its benchmark interest rate by 25-basis points to 1.75%, citing the expected expansion of the country’s economy, driven by tourism and private consumption.

The central bank also noted uncertainty in the financial sector, after recent turmoil in the US and Europe banking markets.

Reporting by Josh White for

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