Upbeat China data lifts stocks, dollar battered

HONG KONG - Asian stocks crawled up to an 11-month high on Monday as Chinese shares cheered more signs of economic activity picking up speed, giving a boost to oil and copper prices while hurting the safe-haven U.S. dollar.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Mon 3 Aug 2009, 2:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:43 AM

European shares were set to open higher, with futures on the Dow Jones Eurostoxx 50 up 0.3 percent.

Two surveys showed Chinese factory growth accelerating in July thanks to a revived domestic economy and slight pick-up in demand for its exports. The China purchasing managers index from brokerage CLSA hit a one-year high.

The U.S. economy shrank at a smaller-than-expected 1 percent annualised pace in the second quarter, with economists expecting growth to resume in the second half of the year after the longest contraction on record.

The improving economic backdrop has contributed to an array of upbeat quarterly earnings reports around the world, prompting analyst upgrades to forecasts that are giving investors more confidence to shift funds into equities.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan edged up 0.8 percent to the highest levels since early September last year, taking gains on the year to 47 percent.

That has far outpaced the 17 percent rise in the MSCI benchmark for world stocks and 11 percent increase in the MSCI index for Japan as investors placed their bets on growth in emerging markets, particularly Asia.

Seoul’s KOSPI index rose 0.5 percent as foreign investors were net buyers of South Korean shares for a 14th straight session.

“Foreign investor buying continues to be strong, which comes as a positive signal,” said Park Suk-hyun, a market analyst at KTB Securities in Seoul.

Shares of automakers and tyremakers were among the biggest gainers after the U.S. Congress moved to triple the funding for the “Cash for Clunkers” car programme, aimed at helping households replace older gas-guzzling vehicles with new models.

Mazda Motor jumped 5 percent and Nissan Motor Co gained 6 percent. Japan’s largest tyremaker, Bridgestone Corp, was up 4.9 percent. South Korea’s Hankook Tire climbed 7.6 percent after Goldman Sachs upped its price target.

But Japan’s Nikkei share average was flat near a 10-month high. It struggled in negative territory for most of the day as investors took profits before a slate of earnings reports this week.

“Investors in Japanese stocks can’t aggressively buy or sell at this moment as the external environment is holding steady, with U.S. stocks pausing at high levels,” said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.5 percent and outperformed the rest of the region following the upbeat manufacturing data.

But bank shares retreated after sources told Reuters that China’s big four state banks extended about $24 billion in new loans in July, marking a sharp slowdown from the lending surge during the first six months of the year.

Worries that Chinese officials may take steps to cool lending were one factor behind the Shanghai Composite’s tumble last Wednesday. Still, the Chinese benchmark rose 15 percent in July, the biggest monthly gain since the height of the 2007 bull market.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank by market value, was down about 1 percent in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, bucking the broader market’s rise.

The dollar hit a 7-1/2-month low against a basket of currencies, hurt by the rebound in commodity prices on hopes the healing global economy will boost demand.

The dollar index, a gauge of its performance against six major currencies, was little changed at 78.32 after initially falling to 78.11, the lowest since December and looking poised to test its low then at 77.68.

The commodity-linked Australian dollar jumped to a 10-month high of $0.8394, while the pound struck a nine-month peak against the beleaguered greenback.

The Aussie’s gains come before a policy decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday at which the central bank may shift towards a more neutral policy stance, making it among the first to take steps towards an eventual hike in interest rates from the current 3 percent.

U.S. crude oil prices hit a one-month high of $70.33 a barrel, while Shanghai copper futures soared 5 percent.

The run higher in stocks and upbeat data on economic growth have put more pressure on safe-haven government bonds. Korean government bond futures hit a one-month low and extended losses after a report on Friday showed industrial output in June blew past forecasts.

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