SHANGHAI, Mar 31, 2020, CNBC. Stocks in Asia Pacific traded mixed on Tuesday afternoon as China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for March came in better than some analysts expected. Mainland Chinese stocks were higher by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite up 0.42% while the Shenzhen composite added 0.806%. The Shenzhen component rose 0.84%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also gained 1.09%, CNBC reported.
China on Tuesday said its official manufacturing PMI for March came in at 52.0, indicating an expansion and defying expectations of a contraction. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the figure to come in at 45 for the month. PMI readings below 50 signify a contraction, while figures above that level indicate an expansion.
“Despite a rebound in China’s PMIs in March (manufacturing: 52.0; nonmanufacturing: 52.3), the monthly indicators, notably industrial production and retail sales, likely still fell 11.6% (year-on-year) and 6.0% (year-on-year) in March,” economists at ANZ said in a note following the data release.
“China’s March PMIs, which jumped back above the threshold 50-levels, are not surprising if one recalls that the contraction in February was dramatic, at a 15-year low,” the economists said. “The outlook for Q2 continues to be concerning due to an acute drop in external demand and lacklustre domestic demand.”
In February, the official manufacturing PMI plunged to a record low of 35.7 as the country continued to grapple with containing the coronavirus outbreak as well as returning to work after an extensive lockdown. Investors have been watching economic data releases from China for clues on the scale of the economic impact from the outbreak, which was first reported in the country.
In South Korea, where stocks led gains among the region’s major markets, the Kospi rose 1.71% while the Kosdaq index gained 4.14%
Australian shares reversed earlier gains, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.91%. The moves came after the index got off to a flying start to the week and surged by 7% on Monday.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 also fell into negative territory as it dipped 0.63% while the Topix index fell 1.78%.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 1.08% higher.
Oil prices rebound
Oil prices rebounded from the previous day’s plunge in the morning of Asian trading hours on Tuesday. International benchmark Brent crude futures gained 1.67% to $23.14 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were also up 5.97% to $21.29 per barrel.
The moves came after oil prices plummeted Monday to levels not seen in almost two decades — Brent fell 8.7% to settle at $22.76 per barrel, a price last seen in 2002. U.S. crude fell 6.6%, or $1.42, to settle at $20.09, its lowest level since February 2002.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.345, below levels above 100 seen last week.
The Japanese yen traded at 108.38 per dollar after touching an earlier high of 107.72. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6178, still above levels below $0.6 seen last week.
CNBC’s Pippa Stevens and Huileng Tan contributed to this report.