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Hong Kong's Hang Seng Jumps 3% as China Cuts Key Lending Rates; Property, Tech Stocks Soar

Zhang Wei | China News Service via Getty Images
  • China on Thursday cut its one-year loan prime rate by 10 basis points, while its five-year LPR was cut by 5 basis points, according to its central bank.
  • U.S. bond yields fell back slightly after shooting up earlier this week, with the 10-year retreating to 1.854% after hitting 1.9% earlier on Wednesday.
  • Oil prices rose for a fourth day to a seven-year high overnight.

SINGAPORE — Markets in Asia-Pacific mostly rose on Thursday as China cut its key lending rates. Meanwhile, Wall Street fell with the Nasdaq closing in correction territory and U.S. yields retreating from their recent gains.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index led gains, jumping 3.42% to close at 24,952.35, as tech and property stocks rose. Mainland China markets closed marginally in negative territory, with the Shanghai composite at 3,555.06 and the Shenzhen component at 14,198.30.

China on Thursday cut its one-year loan prime rate by 10 basis points, while its five-year LPR, which influences the pricing of home mortgages, was cut by 5 basis points, the first time since April 2020.

Stocks of Chinese property firms, which have been reeling under a debt crisis in the country, responded. The Hang Seng Mainland Properties index jumped 4.49%, as Sunac surged more than 12%, while Shimao also jumped nearly 10% and Country Garden topped 3%.

The rate cuts continue the PBOC's efforts to push down borrowing costs, according to Capital Economics.

"Mortgages will now be slightly cheaper which should help shore up housing demand. The PBOC has already pushed banks to increase the volume of mortgage lending," Sheana Yue, China economist at the firm, said in a note after the announcement.

"Targeted support for property buyers does appear to be limiting one of the more severe downside risks facing the economy," Yue added.

Tech stocks in Hong Kong also jumped, with the Hang Seng Tech index rising 4.5%. Tencent surged 6.6%, Alibaba jumped 5.88%, and Meituan soared 11%.

Other Asia-Pacific markets

Japan's Nikkei 225 also jumped, climbing 1.11% to close at 27,772.93, while the Topix was also up nearly 1% to 1,938.53. Sony rose nearly 6%, after tumbling over 12% the day before after Microsoft on Tuesday said it was buying video game publisher Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion.

Trade data on Thursday showed that Japan's exports rose 17.5% in December compared to the year before — higher than the 16% expected in a Reuters poll, according to Reuters.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi rose 0.72% to 2,862.68, while Australia's ASX 200 inched up 0.14% to close at 7,342.40.

Bond yields retreat from highs

On Wall Street overnight, the Nasdaq Composite fell again Wednesday, dipping 1.15% to 14,340.26. That brought its decline from its November high to more than 10% as investors continue to dump tech shares as interest rates spike.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 339.82 points to 35,028.65, dragged down by a 3.1% decline in Caterpillar's stock. The S&P 500 slid nearly 1% to 4,532.76.

U.S. bond yields fell back slightly after shooting up earlier this week, with the 10-year retreating to 1.854% after hitting 1.9% earlier Wednesday. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond fell 2 basis points to 2.167%. Yields move inversely to prices.

"It is hard to get too excited with the overnight declines in yields, the economic backdrop is still pointing to an increase in inflationary pressures and resilient growth, pointing to the need for the Fed as well as other central banks to shift towards a tighter policy setting, thus higher global rates over 2022 still look very likely," Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a Thursday note.

Elsewhere, price worries continued to be top-of-mind as data showed the U.K. inflation rate soared to a 30-year high in December, with higher energy costs, resurgent demand and supply chain issues continuing to drive up consumer prices.

Currencies and oil

Oil prices rose for a fourth day to a seven-year high overnight, as an outage on a pipeline from Iraq to Turkey heightened worries. Brent crude climbed to as much as $89.05, its highest since Oct. 13, 2014, while U.S. crude was 1.8%, higher at $86.96 per barrel.

During Asia afternoon hours on Thursday, oil prices dropped, paring earlier gains. U.S. crude fell 0.47% to $86.55, while Brent was down 0.92% to $87.63.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, continued to fall, trading at 95.426 and off earlier levels above 95.5.

The Japanese yen traded at 114.34 per dollar, strengthening from levels above 114.4 earlier. The Australian dollar was at $0.7237, rising from the $0.722 level.

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