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Mainland China shares jump as major Asian stock markets close higher

Key Points
  • Mainland China markets advanced on the first trading day of March after soaring in February.
  • A private survey showed that Chinese factory activity shrank for a third straight month in February.
  • Data released on Thursday showed the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Mainland China markets saw gains on the first trading day of March after soaring in February, with the Shanghai composite seeing its largest monthly gain in almost four years.

The Shanghai composite advanced 1.8 percent to close at 2,994.00, while the Shenzhen component rose 1.503 percent to finish its trading week at 9,167.65. The Shenzhen composite also added 1.197 percent on the day to close at 1,564.84.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged up 0.45 percent in its final hour of trading.

A private survey on China's manufacturing sector showed Friday that factory activity shrank for a third straight month in February. The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in 49.9 for February.

Meanwhile, global index provider MSCI said on Friday that it will quadruple the weighting of Chinese mainland shares in its global benchmarks later this year from 5 percent to 20 percent, potentially drawing more than $80 billion of fresh foreign inflows to the world's second-biggest economy.

"Many global investors will view China's onshore stock market as a bit of a basket case, regardless of whatever MSCI (does)," Nicholas Yeo, head of China equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said in a note. "This is an inefficient market, after all, where 80% of turnover emanates from local retail investors more easily swayed by the latest headlines than the earnings prospects of A-share companies."

"We believe there are compelling reasons for international investors to view this market more favourably, particularly over the longer run," Yeo said, "Within five years, it has been estimated A-shares could make up as much as 20% of this widely followed index. That would draw in capital from foreign institutional funds tracking it passively."

Elsewhere in Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 1.02 percent to close at 21,602.69 and the Topix added 0.5 percent to finish its trading day at 1,615.72, with shares of conglomerate Softbank Group gaining 1.41 percent.

In Australia, the advanced 0.38 percent to close at 6,192.70, with most sectors seeing gains.

South Korea's markets, which tanked on Thursday following the abrupt end to the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, were closed on Friday for a holiday.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

US GDP exceeds expectations

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite slipped.

The losses stateside came despite the release of data which showed the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the U.S. government. That was above forecasts of economists polled by Dow Jones, who expected the economy to grow at a pace of 2.2 percent.

US-China trade

Meanwhile, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Thursday both the U.S. and China are making "fantastic" progress in their negotiations. "I think we're headed for a remarkable, historic deal."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a separate CNBC interview: "We have made a lot of progress," but added that a deal "is not yet done."

Those comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified in front of House members that China needed to do more than just buy more U.S. goods for the two countries to strike a permanent trade deal. But Lighthizer said after the testimony, according to The Wall Street Journal, that formal steps would be taken to abandon plans of raising tariffs on Chinese goods.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.270 after touching an earlier high of 96.332.

The Japanese yen was at 111.80 against the dollar after seeing an earlier high of 111.31. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7093 after touching an earlier low of $0.7082.

Oil prices advanced in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. The international Brent crude futures contract rose 0.97 percent to $66.95 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.86 percent to $57.71 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.