Asian Shares Rise On China Policy Easing

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump said that an initial trade deal with China would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House, and that he would later travel to Beijing to begin negotiations on the next phase. News of monetary policy easing by China also helped underpin investor sentiment.

China's Shanghai Composite index climbed 1.15 percent to 3,085.20 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 1.25 percent to close at 28,543.52 after China's central bank announced a cut in banks' reserve requirement ratio by 50 basis points on Jan. 6, a move that frees up more money for banks to lend to small businesses.

On the data front, manufacturing data for December proved to be a mixed bag. While the Caixin manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell moderately to 51.5 in December from 51.8 in November, the official manufacturing PMI for December came in slightly above expectations at 50.2.

Australian markets finished marginally higher on the first trading day of the year. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 edged up by 6.50 points to 6,690.60 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 7.60 points at 6,810.

Afterpay jumped 4.6 percent after California had approved its lending license for the U.S. state. Energy stocks eked out modest gains while miners Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group advanced around 0.8 percent each. The big four banks ended down between 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent.

Gold miners suffered heavy losses, with Evolution Mining, Newcrest and Perseus Mining losing 1-3 percent.

Australia's manufacturing activity logged its deepest deterioration in conditions since the survey began in May 2016, IHS Markit survey results showed today. The Commonwealth Bank's manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 49.2 in December from 49.9 in November.

Seoul stocks fell sharply on the first trading day of the year. The benchmark Kospi fell over 1 percent to 2,175.17, with heavyweight Samsung Electronics ending down 1.1 percent.

Markets in Japan and New Zealand were closed for public holidays. Singapore's Straits Times index was up 0.9 percent despite weak data suggesting that the Singapore economy grew at the slowest pace in a decade in 2019.

Gross domestic product grew 0.7 percent in 2019, much slower than the 3.1 percent expansion seen in 2018. This was also the weakest annual growth since 2009. Economists had forecast an expansion of 0.6 percent for 2019.

Overnight, the markets in the U.S. and Europe were closed for the New Year's Day holiday.

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