HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian stocks ended higher Thursday after data on China’s December exports far surpassed expectations, with Japanese stocks extending gains as exporters such as Sony Corp. got a boost from the weakened yen.
Elsewhere, China’s Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -1.44% added 0.4%, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.39% advanced 0.8%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.62% gained 0.3% and Taiwan’s Taiex edged up 0.9%.
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The gains came after data showing China’s December trade surplus jumped to $31.6 billion, well above economists’ expectations for a $19.6 billion surplus, as exports climbed 14.1% from a year earlier. Read: Why investors should care about China data.
The data “adds to the raft of positive anecdotes and news on the Chinese activity front,” said Sue Trinh, a senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets. “Consensus expectations of Chinese growth have yet to catch up to these developments,” she added.
In Hong Kong, property firms and banks were among the notable gainers after the data. New World Development Co. /zigman2/quotes/202357413/delayed HK:17 -1.67% /zigman2/quotes/207378574/composite NDVLY -28.87% jumped 5.4%, Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208405501/delayed HK:1 -2.16% climbed 1.9%, Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204682472/delayed HK:3988 -1.15% /zigman2/quotes/201568493/composite BACHY -1.44% improved 1.7% and Bank of Communications Co /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 -1.40% /zigman2/quotes/202128064/composite BCMXY -7.07% added 0.5%.
DBS Vickers director Peter Lai said some market participants still believed the Chinese economy could make a hard landing, although he said he wasn’t in that camp.
“The economic figures seem to be encouraging,” he said. “I am bullish on A-shares,” referring to yuan-denominated mainland Chinese stocks.
Lai said he favors stocks in the consumer, retail and alternative-energy sectors. News of a review of initial public offering candidates in China also likely underpinned sentiment, he said. Read: China CSRC to take hard look at IPO candidates
A yen-boost again
In Japan, investors found buying impetus from the yen’s latest multi-year low. With the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0765% firmly over the ¥88 mark, investors bought exporter shares on hopes prolonged yen weakness would boost the sector’s competitiveness. Read: Dollar makes more headway against yen
Notable moves included a 3.4% advance for Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +0.67% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE -0.55% , a 1.9% rise for Bridgestone Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205589013/delayed JP:5108 -0.57% /zigman2/quotes/201520388/composite BRDCF -10.88% , and a 10.2% surge for Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +1.33% /zigman2/quotes/206646681/composite MZDAF -2.38% — one of the most sensitive stocks to currency moves.
Isuzu Motors Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202637468/delayed JP:7202 +1.36% /zigman2/quotes/204928389/composite ISUZF +7.12% rallied 3.8% after confirming plans to rekindle a tie-up with General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +0.38% . The two are in talks to jointly develop a new pickup truck. Their combined global market share would total some 25%, according to a Nikkei news report. Read: Isuzu, GM to develop new pickup truck
Brewers were among the decliners in Tokyo as investors shunned more defensive areas of the market, with Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206211507/delayed JP:2502 +0.14% /zigman2/quotes/203104338/composite ASBRF +0.24% losing 0.7% and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200413497/delayed JP:2501 -6.25% down 0.7%.
Exporters also climbed in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.86% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/composite SSNLF 0.00% gaining 2% and Hyundai Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 +1.73% /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF +4.67% climbing 1%.
Australian miners staged a turnaround after the Chinese data; Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -2.89% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -2.42% rose 0.4% and iron ore extractor Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG -2.42% /zigman2/quotes/204116626/composite FSUMF -1.19% surged 2.3%.