By Ese Erheriene
Stock markets were muted in Asian trade on Wednesday, sticking to narrow ranges as the first day of China’s 19th Communist Party Congress drew to a close.
Half a dozen major indexes ended no more than 0.1% higher or lower than their previous close, including Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia.
Regional investors traded cautiously as the latest Communist Party congress got under way, where China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a second five-year term. The twice-a-decade meetings typically trigger uncertainty about political and economic shifts in the country.
“Leads for Asia today are fairly lackluster,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets. “China is key today and for the remainder of this week.”
China markets were mixed as investors hedged amid Party Congress uncertainty. The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -1.84% added 0.3% while the main Shenzhen board /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 -1.62% and the start-up heavy ChiNext index fell 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively.
Expecting no drastic changes from the conclave, asset manager Pimco said it saw risk control and overall economic stability as top priorities for Chinese leaders.
In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -2.54% notched a 12th consecutive gain, up 0.1%, while New Zealand’s benchmark index /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR +0.06% eked out a 12th record close by rising nearly 3 points. Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -3.05% slipped 0.1%. Markets in Malaysia and Singapore were closed for public holidays.
Shares of Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -1.26% fell 0.8% in Sydney after U.S. regulators sued the mining company and two former top executives over claims they misled investors about the value of Mozambique coal assets obtained in a disastrous acquisition that caused huge losses. Late Tuesday, Rio said the fraud claims made by the Securities and Exchange Commission were “unwarranted” and would be proven wrong in court.
In Hong Kong, stocks came under pressure following recent strength, with many Chinese financial firms slightly lower. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -0.95% declined 0.3%. China Construction Bank /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 -0.94% slipped 0.1%. The Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.45% ended up 0.1%.
Meanwhile, news that Iraqi forces have continued to move into Kurdish territory and comments from Iran that it didn’t expect any impact on oil exports from President Donald Trump’s refusal to certify a nuclear deal, helped support oil prices, analysts at Australia and New Zealand Banking said.
How Xi became China's most powerful leader in decades
Xi Jinping is arguably the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. What's behind his rise and how long will he remain in power? Photo: Reuters