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Asia-Pacific markets rise as China reopens borders with Hong Kong

This is CNBC's live blog covering Asia-Pacific markets.

HONG KONG, CHINA - JANUARY 08: Travellers wait at the gate of the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint on January 08, 2023 in Hong Kong, China. Tens of thousands cross Hong Kong-mainland China border as Covid zero ends after 3 years of restrictions. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Anthony Kwan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Asia-Pacific markets traded higher as Hong Kong and mainland China resumed quarantine-free travel over the weekend, signaling the end of zero-Covid policy which kept borders effectively closed for nearly three years.

South Korea's Kospi rose 2.63% to end its session at 2,350.19, leading gains in the region and the Kosdaq gained 1.78% to 701.21.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 1.77% in its final hour of trade on the first day of trade following the reopening. Technology stocks led gains alongside travel and consumer names. In mainland, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.58% to 3,176.08 and the Shenzhen Component rose 0.62% to 11,450.15.


The S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6% to close at 7,151.3 as investors digested the Australia's buildings approvals print that came in significantly lower than expected. Japan's markets were closed to observe Coming of Age Day, a public holiday.

In the U.S., major indexes ended last week with their first rally of the new trading year. Nonfarm payrolls for December came in slightly higher than expected, while wages rose at a slower pace than expected. ISM's non-manufacturing purchasing managers' index showed a contraction in the services sector — adding to hopes that the Federal Reserve's rate hikes are making progress in taming inflation.

— CNBC's Carmen Reinicke, Sarah Min and Alex Harring contributed to this report

Oil prices rise more than a dollar on boosted China demand outlook

Oil prices rose more than a dollar on a boosted fuel demand outlook on the back of China's border-reopening.

Both benchmarks rose around a dollar. Brent crude futures added 1.36% to stand at $79.64 per barrel. Similarly, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate added 1.31% to $79.61 per barrel.

After three years, China and Hong Kong resumed quarantine-free travel over the weekend, marking the end of Beijing's zero-Covid policies.

—Lee Ying Shan

Alibaba leads gains in Hang Seng index, reopening-related stocks in focus

Shares of Alibaba rose as much as 5.8% at the open in Hong Kong, leading gains after Ant Group founder Jack Ma reportedly gave up control of the company. Ant Group is an affiliate of Alibaba, which holds a 33% stake in the fintech company.

Other technology names rose, with NetEase up 1.92% and Tencent gaining 1.49%.

Casino stocks also rose in Hong Kong's first trading session after the city resumed quarantine-free travel with mainland China. MGM China gained 4.52%, Wynn Macau rose 4.25%, Sands China climbed 3.89% and SJM Holdings rose 2.14%.

Consumer names added on to the reopening rally in the region. Anta Sports rose 2.57%, Haidilao rose 2.9%, Xiabuxiabu Catering jumped 6.36% and Budweiser Brewing Company APAC rose 0.37%.

— Jihye Lee

CNBC Pro: Bank of America just added these biotech stocks to its list of first-quarter picks

BofA has added a number of biotechnology stocks — a sector that is hot on Wall Street right now – to its list of top picks for the first quarter.

The bank identified the biotech stocks, as well as some medical technology companies, as part of its thematic investing picks, on themes it says are related to a "transforming world."

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Australia's building approvals fell further in November

Australia's building approvals fell further than expected in November, according to data released by Australia's Bureau of Statistics.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for November showed total dwellings approved fell 9% compared with the previous month, much further than expectations in a Reuters poll of a 1% decline.

The approval of private sector houses fell 2.5%, while private sector dwellings excluding houses fell 22.7%.

The value of non-residential buildings rose 2%, while the value of total buildings declined 1.5%, the release said.

— Jihye Lee

Fed's Barkin says rate hikes can be done 'more deliberately' now

Richmond Federal Reserve President Thomas Barkin said Friday the central bank has to keep working to bring down inflation but can do so with a little less intensity.

"We still have work to do," the central bank official said in prepared remarks. "Inflation is too high, and we will need to stay on the case until it is sustainably back to our 2% target. We have forecasted additional rate increases this year."

Policymakers indicated in December that they're likely to take rates up another percentage point or so before pausing. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic earlier in the day told CNBC he expects the central bank's benchmark funds rate rising past 5%, from its current 4.25%-4.5% target range.

Barking did not specify how high he thinks the rate should go. However, he said the Fed now can move "more deliberately" after raising rates aggressively seven times in 2022.

—Jeff Cox

CNBC Pro: Evercore’s Mark Mahaney reveals his top tech picks for 2023 — and gives one nearly 200% upside

Top tech analyst Mark Mahaney has a positive outlook on tech stocks after a brutal year for the sector in 2022.

But investors should remain selective, according to the analyst, who revealed three top picks for 2023.

Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Zavier Ong

Stocks rally on slower wage growth but are ignoring other message in jobs data

The December jobs report shows the economy is still adding jobs at a strong rate, but investors focused on the fact that wage growth is slowing, suggesting inflation may be ebbing.

Stocks rallied after the 8:30 a.m. ET employment report showed 223,000 jobs were created in December. Average hourly wages grew at an annual pace of 4.6%, less than the 5% expected by economists.

"The big move was the fact that average hourly earnings came in lower than expected. That suggests that investors are focused intently on inflation, and whether that inflation is moving toward the Fed's target," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

But he also cautioned that the data could be double-edged, since it suggests the economy and employment are still strong. That could help keep inflation elevated and keep the Fed hiking more than markets might expect.

The Fed next meets Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. While some economists anticipate a half point hike after that meeting, traders in the futures market put greater odds on a smaller, 25 basis point hike. A basis point equals 0.01 of a percentage point.

"Data like today suggests the Fed could do 50 basis points," said Arone. A more aggressive Fed could create more market volatility.

The Fed has been trying to slow the economy and the hot labor market through its rate hiking, which has taken the fed funds target rate range to 4.25% to 4.50%.

 Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Financial Group said market expectations did not change after the jobs report, and the fed funds futures contract for February was pricing in another 32 basis points of hikes.

"It's pricing 100% chance of a 25 basis point hike, and a 30% chance for an additional 25. Peak fed funds is still at 5%" for July, he said. "The market is still expecting the Fed to go another 60, almost 70 basis points," he said. Boockvar said the end point for the Fed matters more than if it raises by 25 basis points or 50 when it next meets.

--Patti Domm

CNBC Pro: Goldman Sachs reveals the stocks set to benefit from an EV boom, giving one over 100% upside

Shares of legacy automakers and parts manufacturers will attract new investors as they transition toward electric vehicles and green technologies, according to Goldman Sachs.

As traditional auto companies grow their share of income from new carbon-neutral technologies, they're likely to be gradually included in ESG funds and benefit from a share price boost, the Wall Street bank said.

The investment bank named 13 stocks that will benefit from the new trend, including one it gives over 100% upside:

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— Ganesh Rao

Services sector contracted in December, ISM survey shows

The services sector contracted in December amid a pullback in new orders and production, the Institute for Supply Management reported Friday.

The ISM Services index fell to 49.6% for the month, well below the Dow Jones estimate for a 55.1% reading. The gauge measures the percentage of businesses reporting expansion, with a reading below 50% indicating contraction.

New orders fell 10.8 percentage point while business activity and production dropped 10 points. Prices fell 2.4 points to 67.6%, still a high number but representative of some softening in inflation. Employment also fell, moving down 1.7 points to 49.8% and into contraction territory.

—Jeff Cox

Goldman's Hatzius says jobs numbers consistent with 'soft landing'

December's employment report helps add to the narrative that the U.S. may be able to avoid a recession, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius said Friday.

"We're growing at a below-trend pace that's necessary to rebalance the economy. Wage growth is gradually decelerating, price inflation is pretty quickly decelerating," Hatzius said on CNBC's "Squawk of the Street." "I think that should be encouraging for a soft landing."

He spoke after the Labor Department reported a 223,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls and a 4.6% annual rise in average hourly earnings, the slowest pace for the latter metric since August 2021.

—Jeff Cox