Asia Markets

Japan surges 3%; China reports first-quarter GDP drop on coronavirus impact

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia rose on Friday, with Japan's Nikkei 225 jumping 3.15% on the day.
  • China's first quarter GDP shrank 6.8% in 2020 as compared to a year ago, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China. That was the first quarterly decline since 1992, when official quarterly GDP reports started, according to Reuters

Stocks in Asia rose on Friday as investors shrugged off data that showed China's economy shrinking by 6.8% in the first quarter.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 led gains among the region's major markets as it jumped 3.15% to close at 19,897.26 as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank Group surged more than 6% each. The Topix index also ended its trading day 1.43% higher at 1,442.54. 

South Korea's Kospi also saw robust gains as it surged 3.09% to finish its trading day at 1,914.53. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.67%, as of its final hour of trading.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged higher by the close, with the Shanghai composite up 0.66% to about 2,838.49 while the Shenzhen composite added 0.338% to approximately 1,750.28.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia advanced, with the S&P/ASX 200 gaining 1.31% to close at 5,487.50.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 2.11%.

China's first-quarter GDP drops sharply

China's first-quarter GDP shrank 6.8% in 2020 as compared to a year ago, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

That was the first quarterly decline since 1992, when official quarterly GDP reports started, according to Reuters. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected China's GDP to have fallen 6.5% from last year, a sharp drop from the 6% growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2019.

"We expect a significant sequential recovery in Q2 as economic life returns to normal.," economists at Oxford Economics wrote in a note following the data release. Still, they cautioned: "This recovery will be weighed down by weak domestic and foreign demand."

Investors have been closely watching economic data out of China, for insight on the magnitude of the coronavirus economic impact. As the country — where the first cases of the virus were reported — attempts to bring its economy back to speed, it faces headwinds as global demand takes a hit amid the proliferation of the disease globally.

US futures skyrocket

Meanwhile, US stock futures jumped in early morning trading stateside following a report that said a Gilead Sciences drug was showing effectiveness in treating the coronavirus. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures skyrocketed 779 points, pointing to an implied gain of about 766 points at the open on Friday. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures also pointed to Friday opening gains for the two indexes.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 100.077, following an earlier low of 99.697.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.73 per dollar, having seen levels below 107.4 earlier in the trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6342, still off levels above $0.64 seen earlier this week.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.43% to $27.94 per barrel. U.S. crude futures, on the other hand, plunged 6.24% to $18.63 per barrel.