Asia Markets

Asia stocks subdued as weak Europe data fuel growth fears

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia struggled for direction on Tuesday as weak economic data in Europe fueled fears of slowing growth and weighed on investor sentiment.
  • Manufacturing activity in Germany fell to its lowest level since the financial crisis this month, data from IHS Markit showed.
  • Investors also continued to monitor for developments on the trade war between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese importers buying 10 boatloads of U.S. soybeans following last week's trade negotiations between the two economic powerhouses.

Stocks in Asia struggled for direction on Tuesday as weak economic data in Europe fueled fears of slowing growth and weighed on investor sentiment.

Shares on mainland China edged up on the day, with the Shanghai composite adding 0.28% to about 2,985.34 and the Shenzhen component gaining 0.31% to 9,811.38. The Shenzhen composite also rose 0.331% to approximately 1,665.56.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 0.24%, as of its final hour of trading. Shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev's Asian business were priced at HK$27 apiece, the bottom of the range in the firm's second attempt at listing in Hong Kong. The stock is scheduled to start trading on Sept. 30.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed fractionally higher at 22,098.84 despite shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank Group declining 1.16% and 1.82%, respectively. The Topix index also gained 0.42% to end its trading day at 1,622.94.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi closed 0.45% higher at 2,101.04, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 finished its trading day just below the flatline at 6,748.90.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.05%.

Data released Monday stoked fears of a deteriorating global economic outlook. Manufacturing activity in Germany fell to its lowest level since the financial crisis this month, data from IHS Markit showed. Germany's services sector also grew at its slowest pace in nine months.

"Given the weak PMIs, it is possible Germany may have entered a mild technical recession in Q3 — something the Bundesbank flagged as a risk in their latest monthly report," Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note. "Despite this possibility, prospects of fiscal stimulus remain dim."

Overall, manufacturing in the euro zone fell to a more than six-year low while services grew at its slowest pace in eight months, IHS Markit said.

US-China trade

On the trade front, Chinese importers bought 10 boatloads of U.S. soybeans following last week's trade negotiations between the two economic powerhouses.

"We still think a proper agreement by say, the middle of next year, seems most likely," Michael Spencer, chief economist and head of research Asia Pacific at Deutsche Bank, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "Both sides, we think, want an agreement. They just don't seem to be needing it right now."

Still, he added, even in the event of a "proper deal" being reached between Beijing and Washington: "It's gonna take some time for businesses to be confident that President (Donald) Trump isn't simply going to threaten to go back on that agreement, you know, two or three months later."

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.647 after touching an earlier low of 98.618.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.59 per dollar after seeing an earlier high of 107.46. The Australian dollar was at $0.6773 following its decline from levels above $0.685 seen last week.

Oil prices slipped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract declining 0.76% to $64.28 per barrel and U.S. crude futures shedding 0.65% to $58.26 per barrel.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.