By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com-- Most Asian stock markets rallied on Thursday after the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December meeting pointed to smaller interest rate hikes, while a mild improvement in Chinese business activity ramped up bets on an economic recovery this year.
Chinese stocks were the best performers in the region, with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rallying 1.8% and 1.3%, respectively. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also jumped 0.9%, amid speculation over an imminent border reopening with the mainland.
Data this week showed that China’s manufacturing and services sectors remained in contraction through December. But the pace of contraction slowed from November, as the country relaxed strict anti-COVID restrictions, while optimism among businesses over an economic recovery increased greatly.
Chinese markets had rallied towards the end of 2022, as investors bought into heavily discounted markets on bets that the world’s second-largest economy will roar back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.
Still, the country faces a massive spike in COVID cases after it loosened curbs, which threatens to overwhelm its healthcare infrastructure. Analysts also warned that this could cause near-term volatility, as well as potentially delay a full reopening.
Broader Asian markets rose tracking gains on Wall Street, as the minutes of the Fed’s December meeting showed that policymakers support smaller interest rate hikes in the coming months. But gains were limited, given that policymakers also support keeping interest rates higher for longer, which could again weigh on regional stocks in the long term.
Thepoints to some relief for Asian markets in the near-term, after a sharp, sudden rise in U.S. interest rates walloped sentiment in 2022. Most Asian bourses logged sharp losses for the year.
The Taiwan Weighted index added 0.6%. But shares of major Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL ) supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (TW: 2317 ), popularly known as Foxconn, languished at a 19-month low on a report that the iPhone maker plans to increase production at Foxconn’s Chinese rival Luxshare Precision Industry Co Ltd (SZ: 002475 ). Luxshare’s stock jumped as much as 3%.
Still, stock prices of Asian Apple suppliers sank this week on a report that the U.S. tech giant plans to cut overall production.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4% amid speculation that the Bank of Japan could raise its quarterly inflation forecasts, in the face of surging price pressures in the county.
Stocks in the country fell for a second consecutive session after inflation rose more than expected in December, ramping up fears of more economic disruption and interest rate hikes.
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