HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly edged up early Thursday with Chinese inflation data lifting hopes for fresh easing measures by Beijing, but gains were limited as weak European data dented recent optimism.
Wall Street and European traders were unable to provide a strong lead after a three-day rally on central bank stimulus hopes lost momentum, although the euro managed to eke out some small gains Thursday.
Tokyo was up 0.43 percent by the break, Hong Kong climbed 0.70 percent, Seoul gained 1.24 percent and Sydney was 0.22 percent higher, but Shanghai eased 0.14 percent.
China said Thursday that its consumer price index rose 1.8 percent year on year in July, in line with forecasts but down from 2.2 percent in June and its slowest pace since January 2010.
The figures indicate Beijing — which has cut interest rates twice this year and lowered the amount of cash banks must keep in reserve — has more room to loosen monetary policy to kickstart the slowing economy.
But while Hong Kong shares advanced after the news Shanghai dealers remained wary as they await policy action from the country’s leaders.
US and European markets, which along with Asia have been rising this week on expectations of fresh sovereign bond-buying by the European Central Bank and other stimulus from the US Federal Reserve, took a breather Wednesday following poor economic news.
In Europe the Bank of England lowered its forecast for growth in the economy of non-euro member Britain to near zero this year, while the central bank of eurozone heavyweight France warned the country was likely to enter recession.
And in Germany, the eurozone’s economic anchor, exports fell 1.5 percent in June, while imports — a barometer of domestic demand — fell 2.9 percent. Adding to dealers’ fears factory orders fell by a bigger-than-expected 1.7 percent in June and industrial output declined 0.9 percent.
Standard & Poor’s also cut Greece’s debt rating outlook to negative, saying a worsening economy and political challenges could force another downgrade as the country nervously awaits the release of a new tranche of rescue money.
On Wall Street the Dow and S&P 500 closed with marginal gains, while the Nasdaq eased 0.15 percent.
In Hong Kong Standard Chartered bank rose 3.39 percent Thursday morning after its chief executive hit back at US claims it had hidden $250 billion in transactions with Iranian banks, breaking Washington sanctions.
The lender had slumped more than 15 percent in the previous two sessions following the allegations. CEO Peter Sands on Wednesday said of the claims: “There are a lot of matters that we don’t recognise, we don’t understand and are factually inaccurate.”
On currency markets the euro bought $1.2381 and 97.24 yen in morning trade, compared with $1.2363 and 96.99 yen in New York late Wednesday.
The dollar was quoted at 78.55 yen against against 78.45 yen.
Oil prices were higher. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, gained 22 cents to $93.57 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for September added seven cents to $112.21.
Gold was at $1,617.20 at 0300 GMT, from $1,607.80 on Wednesday.