Asia Markets

Asian equities mostly lower, China producer inflation jumps to fastest since 2008

Asian equities finished in negative territory on Thursday after China's inflation data painted a mixed picture.

China's producer price index (PPI) jumped more than expected by 7.8 percent in February from the previous year, the fastest pace since Sept. 2008. In contrast, consumer prices slowed from a year ago, to 0.8 percent, its slowest pace since Jan. 2015.

The closed down 0.74 percent or 24 points at 3,216.58 and the Shenzhen composite fell 0.73 percent or 14.7 points to finish at 2,009.55. Hong Kong's plunged 1.18 percent by 3:00 pm HK/SIN.

Japan's finished up 0.34 percent or 64.5 points at 19,318.58 as the weaker yen spurred buying.

The benchmark ASX 200 closed down 0.32 percent or 18.5 points at 5,741.2. The index was weighed heavily by a 1.13 percent drop in its energy sub-index and a 2.62 percent decline in its materials sub-index.

Crude benchmarks plunged more than 5 percent during U.S. hours on Wednesday after data showed that U.S. crude inventories surged to a record high, up 8.2 million barrels last week compared with the consensus expectation for 2 million barrels.

But oil recovered during Asian hours, as U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude steadied to climb 0.64 percent to $50.60 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent crude rose 0.83 percent to $53.55.

South Korea's Kospi closed down 0.21 percent or 4.3 points at 1,554.67. The won had a volatile session, fetching as much as 1,157.7 earlier in the session, before heading to 1,156.05 against the dollar by 3:00 pm HK/SIN.

Meanwhile, Samsung Group's chief Jay Y. Lee will go on trial for bribery and embezzlement, amid a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung Electronics was flat, Samsung C&T fell 0.83 percent and Samsung Heavy shed 3.29 percent.

Traders in the region will also watch for more geopolitical-related news out of east Asia, after Washington's ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday that the U.N. was re-evaluating how it must deal with North Korea after it's repeated missile tests and that "all options are on the table."

Over in the U.S., major indexes closed mostly lower amid plunging oil prices and data which showed private sector employment added 298,000 jobs last month, according to ADP and Moody's, well above a Reuters poll estimate of 190,000.

"Bumper U.S. ADP payrolls re-energizes the dollar and sends UST 10-year yields ever-closer to the key 2.60 percent level," said Nizam Idris, Gareth Berry, and Teresa Lam, strategists at Macquarie Bank in a Thursday note.

"If Friday's nonfarm payrolls convey a similar message about labour market strength, Fed may signal 4 hikes for 2017 in their new dot plot."

Blowout ADP report

The was down 0.33 percent, or 69.03 points at 20,855.73, the S&P 500 dropped 0.23 percent or 5.41 points to close at 2,362.98 and the composite rose just 0.06 percent or 3.62 points to end at 5,837.55.

On Wednesday, China unexpectedly posted its first trade deficit in three years last month, as a construction boom pushed imports up 38.1 percent in dollar-denominated terms as exports fell 1.3 percent.

The upbeat data reinforced that China's economic activity picked up in the first two months in 2017 and contributed to a global manufacturing revival, Reuters reported.

The dollar index was trading at 102.20 during Asian time, above the levels around 101 for the past four sessions. The stronger dollar led the yen to weaken to 114.54 by 1:40 pm HK/SIN and the Australian dollar slipped to $0.7509.

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