Asia Markets

Asia Pacific stocks mixed as uncertainty over U.S. coronavirus relief measures lingers

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Key Points
  • Investor focus on Wednesday was likely on coronavirus deal negotiations stateside, as lawmakers remain divided over issues such as unemployment insurance.
  • A private survey of China's services sector in July showed a slower expansion as compared to the previous month, according to Reuters. The Caixin/Markit Services Purchasing Manager's Index came in at 54.1, lower than June's reading of 58.4.
  • Meanwhile, senior officials from Beijing and Washington are set to review the phase one trade deal in mid-August, Reuters reported citing two people familiar with the plans. The latest development, with the meeting plans first reported by the Wall Street Journal, came as tensions between China and the U.S. have reignited in recent weeks.

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Wednesday as uncertainty remains over the state of coronavirus relief stateside.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher on the day. The Shanghai composite was up 0.17% to around 3,377.56 while the Shenzhen component added 0.725% to approximately 13,960.93. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.4%, as of its final hour of trading.

A private survey of China's services sector in July showed a slower expansion as compared to the previous month, according to Reuters. The Caixin/Markit Services Purchasing Manager's Index came in at 54.1, lower than June's reading of 58.4. Still, the July figure was above the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

"I don't think this is concerning for the market because what we have seen (it's) just a moderation from the last month," Suresh Tantia, senior investment strategist at Credit Suisse's APAC CIO office, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Wednesday. "If you look the broader trend, the macro data across the board in China has been improving."

"Along with the services PMI, the manufacturing PMI has also been very strong in the last few months. Underlying data such as property sales has been in double digit(s), auto sales have also been growing at double digit(s) in the last few months," Tantia said. "Broadly, the Chinese economy has been recovering from the pandemic and I think that is going to be very positive for the equity market."

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.4% to close at 2,311.86.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dipped 0.26% to close at 22,514.85 while the Topix index finished its trading day slightly lower at 1,554.71. The moves came after Japanese stocks saw two solid days of gains earlier this week. 

Meanwhile in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.6% lower at 6,001.30.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 0.6%.

Investor focus on Wednesday was likely on coronavirus deal negotiations stateside, as lawmakers remain divided over issues such as unemployment insurance.

"Despite continuing negotiations, talks so far have yet to yield much in the way of progress," Tapas Strickland, director of economics at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note. Still, Strickland said markets "sniff a deal" given the proximity of the elections in November.

Meanwhile, senior officials from Beijing and Washington are set to review the phase one trade deal in mid-August, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the plans. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are expected to participate in the meeting, according to Reuters.

The latest development, with the meeting plans first reported by the Wall Street Journal, came as tensions between China and the U.S. have intensified in recent weeks.

Gold prices hold above $2,000 per ounce

Gold prices continued to trade above $2,000 per ounce in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with spot gold last changing hands at $2,031.6313 per ounce. The moves came after gold prices surged to a new record close overnight — settling above $2,000 for the first time.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.065 after an earlier high of 93.245.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.69 per dollar after touching levels around 106.40 against the greenback earlier in the trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7186 following its bounce from levels below $0.71 earlier this week.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.7% to $44.74 per barrel. U.S. crude futures added 0.62% to $41.96 per barrel.

— CNBC's Weizhen Tan contributed to this report.