By Marketwatch and Associated Press
Asian markets were mixed in early trading Thursday after weaker-than-expected economic data from China and Japan, and reports of a sticking point in U.S.-China trade negotiations.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the trade talks were being held up by China’s reluctance to agree on a specific figure for U.S. agricultural purchases. President Donald Trump has said China has agreed to buy $50 billion of farm goods. Rolling back tariffs and enforcement mechanisms are also reportedly still points of contention.
In economic news Thursday, China said its economic activity grew slower than expected in October, up 4.7% from a year ago, and down from September’s 5.8% increase. Economists had expected a 5.2% rise. Data also showed Japan’s economy grew slower than expected in the September-ending quarter, up just 0.2% year-over-year, following a 1.8% expansion in the previous quarter. Economists had forecast a 0.8% gain.
Also Thursday, Australia’s government reported employment fell by a bigger-than-expected margin in October. That prompted expectations the central bank will cut interest rates to prop up economic growth.
Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +1.41% fell 0.7% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.65% retreated 0.9%. The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.05% inched up 0.1% and the Shenzhen Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598015/delayed CN:399106 +0.23% gained 0.4%. South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.30% rose 0.2%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan /zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed TW:Y9999 +0.95% , Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.46% , Malaysia /zigman2/quotes/210598052/delayed MY:FBMKLCI -0.22% and Indonesia /zigman2/quotes/210597981/delayed ID:JAKIDX -2.78% fell. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +2.14% rose 0.5%.
Among individual stocks, Yahoo Japan parent Z Holdings /zigman2/quotes/207641152/delayed JP:4689 -1.37% , which is controlled by SoftBank /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 -1.57% , skyrocketed in Tokyo trading after reports that it may acquire chat app Line /zigman2/quotes/205382025/delayed JP:3938 -4.78% . Rakuten /zigman2/quotes/201861450/delayed JP:4755 +4.00% and FamilyMart /zigman2/quotes/207640090/delayed JP:8028 -0.25% sank. In Hong Kong, Tencent /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 +0.93% fell after reporting a 13% drop in quarterly profit . Insurer AIA /zigman2/quotes/203565558/delayed HK:1299 +1.51% also declined, while Apple supplier AAC /zigman2/quotes/201441510/delayed HK:2018 -0.48% gained. Kia Motors /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 +2.77% advanced in South Korea, while Foxconn /zigman2/quotes/204111604/delayed TW:2354 0.00% slid in Taiwan. In Australia, BHP /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.50% was about flat after naming a new CEO, while Beach Energy /zigman2/quotes/200513631/delayed AU:BPT +2.28% gained.
Investors are cautions “seemingly on the lack of good news on trade talks with China,” said Stephen Innes of AxiTrader in a report.
“It’s more about China getting locked into a numerical commitment as opposed to balking at the deal,” said Innes. “This is something that needs to get ironed out and certainly not a bridge too far.”
Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he expects the U.S. economy to keep growing at a solid pace but faces risks from slower global growth and trade tension.
The Fed cut short-term rates last month for the third time this year, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%.
On Wall Street, buying focused on safe-play stocks such as utilities, real estate companies and makers of consumer products that tend to pay higher dividends. Banks, industrial stocks and companies declined.
The benchmark S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.72% rose 0.1% to 3,094.04, a record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.89% gained 0.3% to 27,783.59, also a record. The Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.47% dropped 0.1% to 8,482.10.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 31 cents to $57.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 32 cents on Wednesday to close at $57.12. Brent crude , used to price international oils, advanced 24 cents to $62.61 per barrel in London. It gained 29 cents the previous session to $62.37.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1973% declined to 108.68 yen from Wednesday’s 108.84 yen.