Asia Markets

Asia stocks mixed as Fed slashes rates; China's manufacturing activity shrinks again

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia were mixed on Thursday.
  • China reported Thursday that factory activity in the country contracted for the sixth straight month in October.
  • The Bank of Japan announced Thursday that it would be keeping monetary policy steady, but signaled in its forward guidance a readiness to cut rates if required. 
  • The U.S. Fed cut its benchmark funds rate by 25 basis points, the third cut this year. The central bank also removed a key phrase from its statement that said it will "act as appropriate" to sustain the current expansion.

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the third time this year and indicated the possibility of a pause in easing monetary policy.

South Korea's Kospi closed 0.15% higher at 2,083.48. Samsung Electronics reported earnings that were better than guidance given by the firm earlier in October. Operating profit for the three months ending in September plunged 56% as compared to the same period a year ago. Its shares ended their trading day flat after jump more than 1% during the session after the earnings release.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.37% to close at 22,927.04, with shares of index heavyweight Softbank Group surging 3.71%. The Topix index finished slightly higher at 1,667.01.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced Thursday that it would be keeping monetary policy steady, but signaled in its forward guidance a readiness to cut rates if required.

Meanwhile, mainland Chinese stocks slipped on the day. The Shanghai composite fell 0.35% to about 2,929.06 and the Shenzhen component was 0.48% to 9,635.33 while the Shenzhen composite declined 0.763% to around 1,616.19. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, on the other hand, advanced 0.76%, as of its final hour of trading.

China reported Thursday that factory activity in the country contracted for the sixth straight month in October. The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in at 49.3 for October. In September, the official manufacturing PMI was 49.8, according to the country's statistics bureau. The 50 level for PMI readings separates expansion from contraction.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia shed 0.39% on the day to 6,663.40, with the heavily weighted financial subindex down 1.11% as shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group tumbled 3.26% after the firm announced that its statutory profit after tax for the full year ended September 30 2019 had plunged 7% year-on-year.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.4% higher.

Apple suppliers in Asia mostly rise

Shares of Apple suppliers in the region mostly rose on Thursday, after the Cupertino-based tech giant reported on Wednesday fourth quarter earnings that bested expectations while signaling a big holiday quarter ahead. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement: "We're very optimistic about what the holiday quarter has in store."

In Japan, Sharp's stock advanced 1.53% and Kyocera added 1.49% while Taiyo Yuden fell 1.16%.South Korea's LG Display gained 1.11%, while Largan Precision shares in Taipei rose 3.47%.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Sunny Optical surged 7.96% while AAC Technologies jumped 3.35%, as of their final hour of trading.

Fed cuts rates

The Federal Open Market Committee approved a cut of its benchmark funds rate by 25 basis points, but removed a key phrase from its statement that said it will "act as appropriate" to sustain the current expansion.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a press conference following the decision that the central bank would need to see a "really significant"rise in inflation before the Fed thought about hiking.

"If you look at the data as it is today ... you would say: 'Yeah (the Fed) probably (has) it about right. The data is roughly in balance between the positives and the negatives," Dino Kos, chief regulatory officer at CLS Bank and former executive vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday, referring to the consumer and housing market being positive, while business investment and exports are negative.

"I still expect that this slowdown that we're seeing will continue. The Fed will have to ... probably start easing again in 2020 at some point," he added.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.329 after spiking above 97.8 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.67 against the dollar after strengthening from levels above 109.2 in the previous session. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6921 after rising from levels below $0.688 yesterday.

Oil prices edged higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures adding 0.45% to $60.88 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also rose 0.45% to $55.31 per barrel.

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