Asia Markets

Mainland China shares bounce as stimulus measures boost confidence

Key Points
  • Shares in mainland China bounced, while the rest of Asia was more subdued.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he thought Washington and Beijing were "on the cusp" of reaching a deal that would end the trade skirmish.

Mainland Chinese shares bounced strongly on Wednesday afternoon as markets took hope in stimulus measures announced by Beijing on Tuesday. 

The Shanghai composite surged 1.57 percent to close at 3,102.10 and the Shenzhen component rose 1.09 percent to end the day at 9,700.49. The Shenzhen composite jumped 1.49 percent to close at 1,660.41.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also traded in positive territory, adding 0.17 percent.

Stimulus measures announced by Beijing on Tuesday included infrastructure spending and cuts in taxes and fees worth nearly 2 trillion yuan ($289.28 billion).

The rest of Asia was more subdued. Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 0.6 percent to close at 21,596.81, and the Topix slipped 0.25 percent to end at 1,615.25. Shares of Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo chain of apparel stores, fell more than 2 percent.

In South Korea, the Kospi slipped 0.17 percent to close at 2,175.60 with industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics recovering slightly to slip 0.56 percent, from steeper declines earlier.

Australia's rose 0.64 percent, but the Australian dollar dropped to a two-month low of $0.7031, last changing hands at $0.7034. Data on Wednesday showed the country's economy slowed sharply in the second half of last year.

"Overall, it was a pretty weak print," Diana Mousina, senior economist at AMP Capital, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday following the release of Australian GDP data.

"It's really in line with the slowing global growth that we've had over the second half of the year and I guess that the difficulty for us is reconciling the very strong employment numbers that Australia has had with the weakness in GDP numbers," Mousina said.

On trade developments, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he thought Washington and Beijing were "on the cusp" of reaching a deal that would end the trade skirmish.

"We're trying to get that rectified, get that fixed, make it fair and reciprocal and I think we're on the cusp of doing that and I hope all those tariffs will go away, all those barriers," he said.

Slowing Chinese services sector

On the first day of China's annual National People's Congress (NPC) on Tuesday, a private survey showed that the country's services sector in February saw its slowest rate of growth in four months. Beijing had said on Tuesday that it is lowering the country's growth target for this year.

The findings were largely in line with those of an official gauge of the non-manufacturing sector released last week, which showed services activity cooled in February after rebounding for two straight months.

The services PMI numbers were "more influential on markets" than anything coming out of the first day of the NPC and "affirmed" Beijing's GDP growth target for 2019, Rodrigo Catril, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.916 after seeing a high around the 97 handle yesterday. The Japanese yen traded at 111.77 against the dollar after seeing lows above 112 yesterday.

Oil prices declined in the afternoon of Asian trade, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract slipped 0.61 percent to $65.46 per barrel. U.S. crude futures fell 0.76 percent to $56.13 per barrel.

— Reuters and CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.