By Daniel Inman
Asian stocks moved higher Thursday, as a strong reading on the state of Chinese factories lifted most markets outside of China.
The initial October reading for China’s manufacturing activity came out at 50.9, compared to a final reading of 50.2 in September. The score was a seven-month high, above the 50 mark that separates expansion and contraction in factory activity.
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The preliminary reading was among the first economic data on the region’s largest economy in the third quarter, coming less than a week after figures showed that Chinese growth picked up from a dip in the second quarter.
HSBC’s flash PMI measure of manufacturing has led to some sharp market moves this year, as it pointed to a slowdown in factory activity earlier in the summer before showing signs of improvement in recent months.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.33% added 0.3% to 5,372.90, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.49% ended up 0.5% at 2,046.69 and Japan’s Nikkei /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% rose 0.4% to 14,486.41.
Thursday’s upbeat reading, however, did little to offset fears over the Chinese economy, as China’s interbank lending rate moved higher for a second day, reviving fears of a liquidity crunch as happened in June. In addition, data showing a further rise in house prices earlier in the week increased concerns that Beijing could step in to cool down the market.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.09% dropped 0.7% to 22,835.82, and the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.31% lost 0.9% to 2,164.32.
Chinese banks recorded substantial losses in Hong Kong, with China Construction Bank /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 -1.37% /zigman2/quotes/209484779/delayed CICHF -3.88% down 1.9%, and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -0.54% /zigman2/quotes/204265987/delayed IDCBF -2.42% down 1.3%
In currency markets, the Australian dollar /zigman2/quotes/210560947/realtime/sampled AUDUSD +0.0151% climbed as high as 96.71 cents after the Chinese data before easing back to 96.26 cents, little changed from 96.21 U.S. cents late Wednesday in New York.
The yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.0197% was steady late at ¥97.34 to the dollar.
Starbucks in China’s crosshairs
China’s state media is criticizing Starbucks for its prices in China. Photo: Getty Images
Japanese companies that produce industrial machinery were pulled lower after Caterpillar shares plunged 6.1% overnight following a cut in its full-year earnings forecast. Hitachi Construction Machinery /zigman2/quotes/205375504/delayed JP:6305 +0.03% /zigman2/quotes/202936726/delayed HTCMF +16.87% lost 1.4% and Komatsu /zigman2/quotes/204002437/delayed JP:6301 -0.74% /zigman2/quotes/206435044/delayed KMTUF -1.64% dropped 2.1%.
Also in Japan, Hitachi /zigman2/quotes/203839937/delayed JP:6501 -0.26% /zigman2/quotes/203416411/delayed HTHIF +2.28% jumped 8.4% after the company more than doubled its net profit outlook for the fiscal half-year ended Sept. 30, due to strength in areas such as electric-power systems.