Asia Markets

China markets surge as private survey shows manufacturing activity rising in December

Key Points
  • Chinese markets led gains among major markets in Asia on Thursday. Japan's markets were closed on Thursday.
  • The Markit/Caixin Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for manufacturing in the month of December came in 51.5, versus 51.8 in November.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that he will sign an anticipated "phase one" trade deal with China at the White House on Jan. 15.
  • The People's Bank of China also announced Wednesday on its website that it was going to lower the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 50 basis points with effect from Jan. 6.

Shares in China led gains among major markets in the region as they surged on Thursday, after a private survey showed manufacturing activity in country rising in December.

The Shanghai composite gained 1.15% to close at about 3,085.20 while the Shenzhen component rose 1.99% to end its trading day at 10,638.82. The Shenzhen composite also added 1.928% to close at approximately 1,756.16.

The Markit/Caixin Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for manufacturing in the month of December came in 51.5, versus 51.8 in November. Still, that was below expectations by analysts in a Reuters poll of a reading of 51.7 for December. The 50 mark separates expansion in contraction in PMI readings.

That came after the official manufacturing PMI released Tuesday came in slightly above expectations.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 1.16%, as of its final hour of trading, with shares of life insurer AIA surging 3.24%. Shares of gaming hardware maker Razer soared more than 9% after the company announced on Thursday it has a submitted its application for a Singapore digital bank license. 

South Korea's Kospi lagged the general upward trend regionally as it fell 1.02% to end its trading day at 2,175.17, with shares of automaker Hyundai Motor dropping 2.07%.

Data released Wednesday showed the South Korea's exports falling less than expected in December.

South Korea's exports for that month declined 5.2% in December as compared to a year earlier, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing data from the country's trade ministry. That was lower than median expectations of a 6.0% fall from a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia closed 0.1% higher at 6,690.60.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.47% higher.

Markets in Japan were closed on Thursday for a market holiday.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that he will sign a "phase one" trade deal with China at the White House on Jan. 15. That came following an earlier report by the South China Morning Post indicating Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's top trade negotiator, could sign the agreement.

"They're saying they're gonna sign something but markets really don't know ... what this deal is other than the Chinese are buying some agricultural goods," Anthony Raza, head of multi-asset strategy at UOB Asset Management, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. ""I think it's confusing and I know markets are looking for any type of detail."

"I think what the markets are taking away from this is that it does look like ... both sides just need a deal now, they don't have time to argue over things," Raza said.

On one hand, he added, that's "really reassuring" to markets as it appears the risk of an escalation of hostilities between the two economic powerhouses has "diminished a lot." Yet, it's "hard to get overly confident" when details of the deal have been scarce.

The People's Bank of China also announced Wednesday on its website that it was going to lower the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 50 basis points with effect from Jan. 6.

"The liquidity injection was, I would say, sort of well expected by the markets," Ben Luk, senior multi asset strategist at State Street Global Markets, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday.

Luk said two factors, an earlier than usual Chinese New Year in 2020 as well as "a bulk of the local government bond issuance" at the start of the year, would "drain quite a bit of the liquidity."

"I think getting the liquidity out right now really makes sense in order to really stabilize the interbank rates as well as help ... towards lowering the funding costs of many of the (small and medium enterprises)," he added.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.578 after seeing an earlier low of 96.425.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.70 per dollar after touching an earlier high of 108.59. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6999 after rising from levels around $0.692 last week.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures gaining 0.38% to $66.25 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also added 0.26% to $61.22 per barrel.