Asian Investors Shrug Off Fears of Global Recession, Focus on Positive Developments Over COVID-19

The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes finished higher last week, mirroring gains on Wall Street. The catalysts behind the gains were optimism over whether the coronavirus pandemic was peaking and positive developments over how soon governments will start to ease lockdowns which have crippled business and consumer activity worldwide. Investors, for the most part, shrugged off extremely bad economic data which indicated the world is in its worst recession in decades.

For the week, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 19897.26, up 398.76 or +2.05%. South Korea’s KOSPI Index finished at 1914.53, up 53.83 or +2.89% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed at 24380.00, up 79.67 or +0.33%.

In China, the Shanghai Index settled at 2838.49, up 41.86 or +1.50% and Australia’s S&P ASX/200 Index finished at 5487.50, up 100.20 or +1.86%.

China

The major news in the region came out of China last week with the country reporting data on Trade Balance and GDP. Minor reports included Fixed Asset Investment, Retail Sales and Industrial Production.

Chinese trade data defied expectations of a deep downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, igniting hopes that world economies can soon recover. Data showed that China’s exports fell only 6.6% in March from a year ago, far less than the expected 14% plunge. Imports fell 0.9% compared with expectations for a 9.5% drop.

China’s economy contracted for the first time on record in the first quarter as the coronavirus shut down factories and shopping malls and put millions out of work.

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 6.8% in January-March year-on-year, official data showed Friday, a slightly larger decline that the 6.5% forecast by analysts and reversing a 6% expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

South Korea

South Korea plans to send kits designed to run up to 600,000 coronavirus tests to the United States after an appeal from U.S. President Donald Trump, a Seoul official said.

Once struggling with the first large outbreak outside China, South Korea has largely managed to bring its coronavirus cases under control without major disruptions thanks to a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency to include the entire country on Thursday and said the government was considering cash payouts for all in an effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak and cushion the economic downturn.

In other news, fourteen Japanese companies have scrapped plans for initial public offerings (IPO) this month, more than in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on the United States, as the coronavirus pandemic looks set to plunge the economy into a deep recession.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s benchmark share index closed higher on Friday as investors shrugged off the sharp contraction in China’s first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) and bet on hopes of recovery as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

Hong Kong investors were partly influenced by a research note from Chinese brokerage firm CICC that said China may see a strong pick-up in the second quarter as a government-led and property-related investment is expected to support overall domestic demand growth.

Australia

Australia’s unemployment rate ticked up only modestly in March though economists warned the worst was yet to strike as the monthly data was collected before widespread restrictions and shutdowns kicked in to fight the coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak has virtually shut-down corporate Australia and New Zealand, forcing companies to throw out their strategic plans and resulting in thousands of layoffs or staff suspensions.

 Source : IIMG Ltd – International Investment Management Group



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