Asian stocks skittish with US inflation on tap; Alibaba boosts Hong Kong

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Asian stocks skittish with US inflation on tap; Alibaba boosts Hong Kong
Credit: © Reuters. Most Asian stocks moved in a flat-to-low range on Wednesday as investors hunkered down ahead of key U.S. inflation data due later in the day, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose sharply on strong gains in tech major Alibaba

Regional markets took few cues from a middling overnight close on Wall Street, as sentiment remained on edge in anticipation of U.S. consumer price index data, which is expected to factor into the outlook for interest rates. 

U.S. stock index futures moved little in Asian trade. 

Hong Kong stocks outperform on tech strength, Alibaba leads

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was the best performer in Asia for the day, rising nearly 2% to a near one-month high on strength in heavyweight technology stocks.

E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (HK: 9988 ) (NYSE: BABA ) surged 3.6% and was among the best performers on the index after Chinese media reports showed that founder Jack Ma posted an internal memo endorsing recent reforms by CEO Eddie Wu and Chair Joseph Tsai. 

Alibaba also announced another round of steep price cuts in its cloud business. The move- which is Alibaba’s third such price cut in 12 months- is aimed chiefly at capitalizing on growing demand for computing power in the artificial intelligence industry.

Alibaba’s big three Chinese tech peers Baidu Inc (HK: 9888 ) (NASDAQ: BIDU ) and Tencent rose about 1.9% each. 

Sentiment towards Chinese tech was also aided by Microsoft Corporation's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Blizzard Entertainment renewing a long-running partnership with Chinese videogame firm NetEase Inc (HK: 9999 ) (NASDAQ: NTES ). 

Netease’s Hong Kong shares rose more than 1% after rallying nearly 4% in the prior session. 

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes lagged, falling between 0.1% and 0.3%. Chinese inflation data is also due on Thursday. 

Australian stocks boosted by commodity gains

Australia’s ASX 200 was also an outperformer among Asian shares on Wednesday, rising 0.5% on strength in heavyweight mining stocks.

Mining majors BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP ) and Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO )- which are also among the biggest stocks on the ASX- rose 1% and 1.7%, respectively. They tracked a bounce in commodity prices- specifically industrial metals- as markets bet on an improvement in global manufacturing activity and commodity demand in the coming months. 

Chinese iron ore prices rebounded this week, while copper prices hit a 15-month high on expectations of better demand and potentially tighter supplies of refined copper. 

Broader Asian markets tread water as anticipation of the U.S. consumer price index inflation print kept sentiment subdued. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2% as a rebound from recent lows ran out of steam. Data on Wednesday showed Japanese producer price index inflation grew slightly less than expected in March.

Taiwan stocks rose to record highs, with the Taiwan Weighted index adding 0.4% after rallying sharply on strength in chipmaking major TSMC (TW: 2330 ) (NYSE: TSM ).

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a flat open, although the index remained in sight of record highs hit earlier in the week.

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