Chinese stocks lead losses in mixed Asia trading

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Thursday trade as investors continue to watch China’s Covid situation along with moves in the Japanese yen.

Chinese stocks led losses regionally, with the Shanghai composite shedding 1.6% while the Shenzhen component fell 1.894%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 1.65%.

Investors are watching for signs of policy support from Chinese authorities as the mainland continues to grapple with its most severe Covid wave since the initial outbreak in 2020. Its strict zero-Covid policy has raised questions about China’s economic outlook.

China remains “well-positioned to further stimulate growth,” especially when inflation is “not really an issue” currently in the country, said Thomas Rupf, head of trading execution and chief investment officer Asia at VP Bank in Singapore.

“The main priority is clearly now on the Covid side,” Rupf told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday. “We expect over the next few months, more targeted measures also on the infrastructure side and they still have room to also reduce rates slightly as well.”

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The Nikkei 225 in Japan gained 1.23% while the Topix index advanced 0.61%. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.43%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 nudged 0.34% higher.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.56%.

Shares on Wall Street were mixed overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 249.59 points, or 0.71%, to 35,160.79. The S&P 500 dipped fractionally to 4,459.45 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lagged, dropping 1.22% to around 13,453.07.

Yen watch

The Japanese yen traded at 128.46 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 129 against the greenback yesterday.

Still, the Japanese currency remains weaker as compared with levels below 126 seen against the dollar last week. The yen has struggled for weeks against the dollar amid expectations the Bank of Japan will be slower in normalizing monetary policy than the U.S. Federal Reserve.

“Buying on dips will remain the theme so long as the Fed retains its hawkish rhetoric, and the BOJ continues with its unlimited bond-buying,” OCBC Treasury Research’s Frances Cheung and Terence Wu wrote in a Thursday note.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 100.54 following a recent drop from around 101.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.743, still higher than levels below $0.736 seen earlier this week.

Oil prices were higher in the morning of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 1.03% to $107.90 per barrel. U.S. crude futures climbed 0.91% to $103.12 per barrel.

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