Most Asian stocks retreated on Friday, seeing a measure of profit taking after clocking strong gains through November, with focus now turning to an upcoming address from Fed Chair Jerome Powell for more cues on interest rates.
Mixed economic signals from China also kept sentiment largely constrained, as a private survey showed an unexpected rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity in November. But the reading came a day after a government survey showed persistent weakness in the sector.
China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes fell 0.8% and 0.3%, respectively, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index sank 0.5%. The three had widely lagged their Asian peers in November, as investors remained wary of an economic slowdown in the country.
Losses in Chinese stocks spilled over into other regions with high trade exposure to the country.
Asian PMIs point to sustained manufacturing weakness
Australia’s ASX 200 fell 0.3% as purchasing managers index (PMI) data showed a sustained decline in manufacturing activity. Still, the ASX 200 was nursing a nearly 4% bounce in November.
Focus turned to an upcoming Reserve Bank of Australia meeting next week, where the central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold, after recent data showed a bigger-than-expected drop in inflation.
South Korea’s KOSPI sank 0.9% after vastly outperforming its Asian peers in November with a 10.6% rally. Data released on Friday also showed some improvement in South Korean exports and manufacturing activity through November.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 traded sideways after clocking an 8.5% jump in November. The index also remained in sight of a 33-year peak, although further gains were somewhat uncertain as PMI data released on Friday showed continued weakness in the manufacturing sector.
Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a positive open, after gross domestic product data released on Thursday showed the country’s economy grew more than expected in the September quarter. Optimism over India’s economy, which is the fastest-growing major economy this year, kept the Nifty primed for more gains before a Reserve Bank meeting next week.
Dollar rebound weighs, Powell in focus
Profit-taking in regional markets also came following an overnight rebound in the dollar, as PCE price index data- the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge- showed some stickiness in inflation through October.
The reading came just a day before an address by Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Friday. Powell is expected to provide more cues on interest rates before the Fed’s final meeting for the year in mid-December.
But the central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold, with markets also looking out for any cues on when the bank plans to begin trimming rates in 2024.
Easing fears of a hawkish Fed were one of the key drivers of an Asian stock rally through November.