Markets in Asia rose on Friday, as the release of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) numbers showed growth was in line with analyst expectations.
Chinese markets rose initially following the release of those numbers, but fell again by the close. The Shanghai composite traded flat to close at 3,075.50, while the Shenzhen composite fell 0.29% to 1,806.28. The Shenzhen component inched down 0.12% to 10,954.39.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index inched down in its final hour of trade.
China’s GDP numbers which came in on Friday largely met analyst expectations. It announced its economy grew by 6.1% in 2019, meeting expectations even amid a trade dispute with the U.S. Its GDP grew 6.0% on-year in the fourth quarter of 2019.
That’s unchanged from the pace in the third quarter, which was believed to be its slowest GDP gain in at least 27½ years.
China’s growth has been hit by the trade dispute with the U.S., among other factors. But both giants signed a “phase one” deal this week, which included some tariff relief. Data earlier this week also showed that the country’s exports rose for the first time in five months in December, and its imports beat estimates.
Following the release of the GDP data, the Chinese yuan, which has been appreciating amid trade optimism, strengthened further. The offshore yuan last traded at 6.8628, as compared to 6.8751 seen earlier. The onshore yuan strengthened to below the 6.86 level where it was earlier, to last trade at 6.8577.
“China’s economy has stabilised, for now, and alongside the phase one US-China trade deal that represents good news for the global economy,” wrote Tom Rafferty, principal economist for China, at The Economist Intelligence Unit on Friday.
But he added: “While businesses and investors can afford to breath a sign of relief, after a difficult 2019, we still see risks to the China outlook as mainly weighted to the downside, given the fragile nature of the trade truce and the risks that still stalk China’s financial markets.”
Japan, South Korean markets jump to highs
Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped to a 15-month high earlier in the session, last rising 0.45% to close at 24,041.26. The Topix advanced 0.39% to 1,735.44. Some auto stocks soared. Mazda surged 5.77%, while Suzuki Motor bounced 4.04%. Subaru jumped 4.27%, and Mitsubishi Motor added 2.47%.
South Korea’s Kospi also rose to a 15-month high earlier in Friday’s session, last edging up 0.11% to close at 2,250.57.
The Bank of Korea on Friday kept its benchmark rate steady at 1.25%, as expected. That followed two cuts last year.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.32% to close at 7,064.10, as major miners rose. Rio Tinto jumped 1.78%, Fortescue Metals surged 3.73%. BHP Group advanced around 1.17%.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.21% in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, U.S. stocks rose to fresh highs again with sentiment lifted after a solid start to the earnings season, as well as strong economic data.
Weekly jobless claims unexpectedly dropped by 10,000 to 204,000 — lower than the 216,000 that economists polled by Reuters expected. Additionally, retail sales climbed by 0.3% in December, matching expectations.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.289, edging down from an earlier high of 97.353.
The safe-haven Japanese yen was at 110.21, weakening from the 109 level for most of the week.
The Australian dollar edged back up to 0.6905, after falling to the 0.68 level earlier.
Oil prices were little changed in the afternoon of Asia trading hours on Friday. U.S. crude futures traded flat to $58.55 per barrel, and Brent crude didn’t budge much at $64.62 per barrel.