Asia stocks mixed as private survey of China’s manufacturing activity beats expectations

Stocks in Asia traded mixed on Wednesday morning as a private survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity expanding slightly in March.

Mainland Chinese stocks rose in early trade, with the Shanghai composite up about 0.4% while the Shenzhen composite added 0.657%.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index for March came in at 50.1, above expectations of a reading of 45.5 by analysts in a Reuters poll. The data release came on the back of February’s reading of 40.3, the sharpest contraction on record. PMI readings below 50 signify a contraction, while figures above that level indicate an expansion.

On Tuesday, China said its official manufacturing PMI for March came in at 52.0, indicating an expansion and defying expectations of a contraction. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the figure to come in at 45 for the month.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong, on the other hand, dipped 0.42%. Hong Kong-listed shares of HSBC plunged 5.78% after Britain’s top banks said Tuesday they would suspend dividend payments, according to Reuters

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dropped 1% in morning trade while the Topix index shed 0.66%. The big manufacturer’s index in the Bank of Japan’s Tankan March 2020 for the first quarter came in at -8. That was its lowest level since March 2013, according to Reuters. Still, that was above expectations of a reading of -10 in a Reuters poll.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi traded flat while the Kosdaq index jumped 1.13%. Meanwhile, shares in Australia rose, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 3.26%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.45% higher.

Overnight stateside, stocks on Wall Street closed out their worst quarter ever. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 410.32 points to 21,917.16 while the S&P 500 declined 1.6% to 2,584.59. The Nasdaq Composite shed nearly 1% to 7,700.10.

The Dow and S&P 500 had their worst first-quarter performances ever, losing 23.2 and 20%, respectively. The Dow also had its worst overall quarter since 1987 while the S&P 500 had its biggest quarterly loss since 2008. 

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.128 after declining from levels above 99.5 seen earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.80 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 108 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6118 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6107.

Oil prices were mixed in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1.82% to $25.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures, on the other hand, gained 0.34% to $20.55 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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