Asia shares gain despite Chinese COVID case numbers rising

SYDNEY, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Asian share markets were mostly in positive territory on Wednesday 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 (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was up 0.3%, after US stocks ended the previous session with gains. The index is up 12% so far this month.

Australian shares (.AXJO) were up 0.7%, with most gains coming from mining and resources giants as a result of higher oil prices. Japan’s stock market (.N225) 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% and flagged more hikes are on the way as it struggles to contain stubbornly high inflation.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (.HSI) was up 0.6% in early trade while China’s CSI300 Index (.CSI300) opened broadly flat.

China on Wednesday reported 29,157 new COVID infections for Nov. 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% but those expectations are being dialed 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 on Wednesday is being keenly awaited by investors as they look for insight into how officials view economic conditions.

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

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 3.7578% compared with its US close of 3.758% on Tuesday.

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

The dollar dropped 0.02% against the yen to 141.21.

The European single currency was up 0.0x?% on the day at $1.0303, having gained 4.26% in a month, while the dollar index, 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% to $81.15 a barrel. Brent crude rose to $88.35 per barrel.

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

While the FTX exchange collapse continues to roil cryptocurrency markets, Bitcoin was 0.33% higher in Asian trading hours to $16,184.

Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Scott Murdoch

Thomson Reuters

Scott Murdoch has been a journalist for more than two decades working for Thomson Reuters and News Corp in Australia. He has specialized in financial journalism for most of his career and covers equity and debt capital markets across Asia based in Hong Kong.

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