Asia Markets

Asia markets trade mostly higher as China's National People's Congress continues

Key Points
  • Australia's benchmark ASX 200 rose 118.60 points, or 2.16%, to 5,615.60, with all sectors finishing up. 
  • In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 353.49 points, or 1.73%, to 20,741.65 while South Korea's Kospi gained 24.47 points, or 1.24%, to 1,994.60. 
  • Mainland Chinese shares traded mixed, with the Shanghai composite finishing slightly higher. 
  • Markets in Singapore, India and Indonesia were shut due to public holidays. 

Asia markets traded mostly higher on Monday as investor sentiment remained resilient despite growing concerns over the U.S.-China relationship. 

Australia's benchmark ASX 200 rose 118.60 points, or 2.16%, to 5,615.60, with all sectors finishing up. 

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 353.49 points, or 1.73%, to 20,741.65 while the Topix index was up 24.40 points, or 1.65%, to 1,502.20. 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lift the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic in Tokyo and four other prefectures on Monday, Kyodo News reported. It added that Abe is expected to hold a press conference to explain his government's plan, which would ease restrictions on economic activity.

More than 5.4 million people worldwide have now been infected by the virus, which was first reported in China's Hubei province, and more than 345,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

South Korea's Kospi gained 24.47 points, or 1.24%, to 1,994.60. 

Mainland Chinese shares traded mixed: The Shanghai composite rose 0.15% to 2,817.97, the Shenzhen composite was fractionally lower at 1,750.82 and the Shenzhen component was down 0.11% at 10,592.84.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong erased earlier losses of more than 1% to finish up 0.1% at 22,953.68. 

Last Friday, the index lost more than 5% after China announced a new national security law, which, if implemented, would give Beijing more control over Hong Kong and may incite further pro-democracy protests in the city. The draft measure was announced as China's National People's Congress (NPC) — the country's parliament — kicked off its annual session and will last until May 28. 

"Risk sentiment proved resilient, on Friday night, to concerns about the fallout from China introducing national security legislation in Hong Kong. Weakness in Asian equities gave way to a flattish European session, and mild positivity in the US," Hayden Dimes at ANZ Research said in a Monday morning note. 

Government departments in Hong Kong rallied behind Beijing's plans on Monday after thousands took to the streets to protest over the weekend, Reuters reported. Security Chief John Lee said "terrorism" was growing in the city and activities that harm national security became more rampant, the news wire said. 

Still, China's announcement drew criticism from U.S. officials. White House national security advisor Robert O'Brien said on Sunday that if Beijing goes ahead with implementing the controversial law, the U.S. government will likely impose sanctions on China

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Sunday that some political forces in the United States were taking the bilateral relation "hostage" and pushing the two economic powerhouses to the brink of "a 'new Cold War'," according to an official English translation of his remarks posted by the foreign ministry. 

Markets in Singapore, India and Indonesia were shut due to public holidays. 

The U.S. dollar traded at 99.906 against a basket of its peers at 3:17 p.m. HK/SIN, a touch higher than its previous close at 99.863. 

Currency strategists at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a morning note that the dollar faces upside risks this week. "Rising tensions can put the US-China Phase One trade deal at risk. Although not our central scenario, if the US or China were to withdraw from the Phase One deal, (the dollar) would sharply appreciate," they wrote. 

The Japanese yen changed hands at 107.71 per dollar, strengthening from levels near 108 in the previous week. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar traded down 0.2% at $0.6522. 

Oil prices traded higher on Monday during Asian hours. U.S. crude rose 1.02% to $33.59 a barrel while global benchmark Brent traded up 0.34% at $35.25 as of 3:19 p.m. HK/SIN.