Asia Markets

Stocks in Asia mixed as concerns over global growth linger; US treasury yields 'volatile'

Key Points
  • Major Asian stock markets closed mixed on the day.
  • Overnight on Wall Street, stocks gained while the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rose.
  • The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was last at 2.4088 percent, as of 3:22 p.m. HK/SIN.
  • The New Zealand dollar dropped after the country's central bank unexpectedly said its next move in interest rates was more likely to be a cut.

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Wednesday as investor concerns over the outlook for the global economy lingered.

The broad MSCI Asia-ex Japan index was fractionally higher at 524.17, as of 3:21 p.m. HK/SIN.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan declined 0.23 percent to finish at 21,378.73, as shares of automaker Nissan dropped 3.5 percent. The Topix index also fell 0.52 percent to close at 1,609.49.

In South Korea, the Kospi slipped 0.15 percent to close at 2,145.62, as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics recovered from an earlier slip to rise 0.22 percent after announcing on Tuesday that its first quarter earnings would likely fall short of expectations.

Meanwhile, the in Australia rose fractionally to close at 6,136.00.

Shares of Lynas rose 1.9 percent, after the company rejected a takeover bid by the conglomerate Wesfarmers. For its part, shares of Wesfarmers gained 0.71 percent.

The mainland Chinese markets saw gains on the day, with the Shanghai composite adding 0.85 percent to close at 3,022.72 and the Shenzhen component rose 1.01 percent to finish its trading day at 9,609.44. The Shenzhen composite gained 0.899 percent to close at 1,654.69.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added about 0.6 percent in its final hour of trading.

"The global growth and data concerns that drove the downside moves over the last few days are still with us and investors will be looking for fresh reasons for the market to rally further over the next few sessions," analysts from Rakuten Securities Australia said in a note.

They added that the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was still looking "relatively volatile" despite steadying overnight.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 140.90 points to close at 25,657.73, while the finished its trading day higher by 0.7 percent at 2,818.46 — its first gain in three sessions. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.7 percent to close at 7,691.52.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rebounded off lows since December 2017. It was last at 2.4088 percent, as of 3:22 p.m. HK/SIN.

That benchmark rate sat at about 2.42 percent on Tuesday afternoon stateside — about 3 basis points below its session high. The 10-year's decline caused a so-called yield-curve inversion as the 3-month Treasury bill yield moved above the benchmark rate.

Investors see a yield-curve inversion as a signal that a recession may be on the horizon, so a rise in long-term rates is being viewed as a positive right now. That came amid the release of weak economic data from the U.S. and around the world as well as a downgraded U.S. economic outlook from the Federal Reserve.

"The risk of a US recession has increased, in large part due to the risk posed from deteriorating sentiment, but we still do not expect a US or global recession in 2019," Esty Dwek, senior investment strategist at Natixis Investment Managers, said in a Tuesday note.

"We could see further volatility and short-term corrections in equity markets as growth fears reappear, but we continue to expect risk assets to grind higher in the coming months, though not at the January pace," Dwek said.

Kiwi dollar tumbles

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.897 after bouncing from lows below 96.6 yesterday.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.54 against the dollar after seeing lows around 110.6 in the previous session. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7099 after seeing highs around $0.714 earlier.

The dropped to $0.6805 from an earlier high of $0.6914 following the central bank's decision to keep the benchmark rate at a record low of 1.75 percent.

While that decision was widely expected, investors were taken by surprise as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand announced its next move in interest rates was more likely to be a cut. Projections last month showed the cash rate increasing in early 2021.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract adding 0.28 percent to $68.16 per barrel. U.S. crude futures, on the other hand, were slightly lower at $59.89 per barrel.

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

Clarification: This article was updated to mention that investors were taken by surprise as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand announced its next move in interest rates was more likely to be a cut.