Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rises nearly 2% as Asia-Pacific stocks rise

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were higher on Thursday as the second quarter kicked off with several economic data releases out across the region.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led gains among the region’s major markets as it rose 1.97% to close at 28,938.74. Scores of firms in Hong Kong were suspended from trading on Thursday, as multiple companies cited a delay in the publication of their annual results as a reason behind the halt.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.72% to close at 29,388.87 while the Topix index gained 0.19% to finish the trading day at 1,957.64. South Korea’s Kospi closed 0.85% higher at 3,087.40.

Mainland Chinese shares advanced on the day as the Shanghai composite gained 0.71% to 3,466.33 while the Shenzhen component climbed 1.459% to 13,979.69.

Shares in Australia edged higher as the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.56% to close at 6,828.70.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan jumped 1.26%.

In corporate news, shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company jumped 2.56% on Thursday. The firm announced Thursday plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity at its plants, according to Reuters.

Economic data

A slew of economic data releases were out on Thursday. The headline large manufacturers index in the Bank of Japan’s quarterly tankan business sentiment survey came in at 5, against expectations of a 0 reading in a Reuters poll.

Australia’s retail sales declined 0.8% in February on a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis. That compared against expectations for a 1.1% decline in a Reuters poll.

The country also posted a trade surplus of 7.529 billion Australian dollars (about $5.71 billion) for February, as compared with expectations for a trade surplus of 9.7 billion Australian dollars, according to Reuters.

A private survey released Thursday showed slowing growth of Chinese factory activity in March. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for March came in at 50.6, compared to February’s reading of 50.9.

PMI readings above 50 signify expansion while those below that level represent contraction. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.

In comparison, China’s official manufacturing PMI released Wednesday came in at 51.9, higher than February’s reading of 50.6.

The official PMI survey typically focuses a large proportion of big businesses and state-owned companies, while the private Caixin/Markit survey polls a bigger mix of small- and medium-sized firms.

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 closed 0.36% higher at 3,972.89 while the Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.54% to finish its trading day at 13,246.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, on the other hand, dipped 85.41 points to close at 32,981.55.

For the quarter, the Dow and S&P 500 gained 7.8% and 5.8%, respectively. The Nasdaq was the relative underperformer as tech stocks are particularly sensitive to rising rates due to their dependence on borrowing cheap money to invest in their future growth. Still, it gained 2.8% for the quarter.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a more than $2 trillion infrastructure package on Wednesday. The plan’s goals include the revitalization of America’s transportation infrastructure as well as manufacturing.

Oil prices jump

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 2% to $63.99 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 2.11% to $60.41 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.161 following an earlier high of 93.336.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.68 per dollar, still weaker than levels below 109.6 seen earlier this week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7567, having slipped from above $0.765 earlier in the week.

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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