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Asian stocks fall after China manufacturing weakens

Asian stock markets sank on Thursday after Chinese manufacturing weakened and Russian shelling around Ukraine’s capital shook hopes of progress in peace talks.

Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo declined, while Seoul gained. Oil fell more than US$7 per barrel in New York but stayed above US$100.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 0.6 per cent on Wednesday after US economic growth was weaker than expected.

Russian forces shelled areas near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and another city on Wednesday after Moscow said it would scale back operations there to promote trust. Negotiators were meeting in Turkey to try to end the five-week-old war.

Russia is “pouring cold water on headlines of constructive ceasefire talks,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1 per cent to 3,263.19 after an index of Chinese manufacturing activity fell to a five-month low, following the shutdown of much of Shanghai and two smaller industrial cities to fight coronavirus outbreaks.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.8 per cent to 22,052.49.

“The near-term outlook remains highly uncertain,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report. “Even if the outbreak is brought under control soon, it will still take a while for the economy to get back on track.”

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.5 per cent to 27,889.09, and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.2 per cent to 7,530.80.

The Kospi in Seoul gained 0.4 per cent to 2,757.65 after data showed February industrial production improved.

India’s Sensex opened less than 0.1 per cent higher at 58,708.37. New Zealand and Jakarta gained, while Singapore and Bangkok declined.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 declined to 4,602.45 after Commerce Department data showed the US economy grew at an annual pace of 6.9 per cent in the final quarter of 2021, below forecasts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2 per ecnt to 35,228.81. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.2 per cent to 14,442.27.

Markets have mostly gained ground this week as talks between Russia and Ukraine seemed to show progress.

Unease over possible disruption of Russian oil and gas exports added to concern about higher US interest rates and a Chinese economic slowdown.

On Thursday, the United States Commerce Department was due to release its personal income and spending report for February. The Labour Department will release US employment data for March on Friday, April 1.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude tumbled US$7.17 to US$100.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose US$3.58 on Wednesday to US$107.82. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, fell US$6.29 to US$105.15 per barrel in London. It rose US$3.22 the pervious session to US$113.45.

US President Joe Biden is preparing to order the release of up to one million barrels of oil per day from US reserves, according to two people familiar with the decision. That would come near to closing the US production gap, compared with February 2020 before the coronavirus caused a steep decline.

The dollar advanced to 122.23 yen from Wednesday’s 121.78 yen. The euro rose to US$1.1160 from US$1.1159.



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