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Asia report: Most markets lower as China's exports fall short

(Sharecast News) - Asia-Pacific markets finished in a mixed but primarily lower state on Friday, as investors assessed fresh economic data from Singapore and South Korea. Patrick Munnelly, market analyst at TickMill, said most Asian stock markets declined, despite a positive performance from Wall Street overnight.

"This is due to concerns about the US Fed's interest rates and the release of producer price inflation data, which showed relatively mild results compared to the previous day's consumer price inflation data.

"Federal Reserve Bank of Boston president Susan Collins and New York Fed president John Williams stated that it might require additional time to build the confidence needed to start adjusting policy."

Munnelly noted that after experiencing losses in the last two trading sessions, Japan's stock market was showing significant gains in volatile trading on Friday, following the mostly positive equity trends stateside.

"The benchmark Nikkei 225 [has] increases in export and technology stocks as the Japanese yen fell to its lowest level in 34 years."

Most markets in the red, with Japan the exception

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 edged up 0.21% to reach 39,523.55, while the Topix index gained 0.46% to settle at 2,759.64.

Notable performers on Tokyo's benchmark included Mitsui Fudosan, Tokyo Tatemono, and Mitsubishi Estate, with gains of 7.82%, 7.61%, and 6.92%, respectively.

Meanwhile, China's markets saw a decline, with the Shanghai Composite slipping by 0.49% to 3,019.47 and the Shenzhen Component dropping by 0.78% to 9,228.23.

Dali Pharmaceutical and Delixi Xinjiang Transportation faced led the losses in Shanghai, falling 10% and 7.74%, respectively.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index experienced a notable downturn, decreasing by 2.18% to reach 16,721.69.

Leading the losers was Longfor Properties, down 8.64%; AIA Group, off 5.82%; and Ping An Insurance, which declined 5.69%.

South Korea's Kospi index also declined, finishing down 0.93% to settle at 2,681.82.

GS Holdings and DB Insurance were among the significant decliners, with losses of 9.8% and 7.75%, respectively.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index decreased by 0.33% to reach 7,788.10, led lower by Domino's Pizza Enterprises and Karoon Energy, with respective losses of 7.51% and 2.94%.

Similarly, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index showed a slight decline of 0.03%, settling at 11,931.32.

Synlait Milk was among Wellington's biggest losers, down 3.39%, with Serko close behind as it lost 2.23%.

In currency markets, the dollar was last 0.03% stronger on the yen, reaching JPY 153.32, while it rose 0.5% against the Aussie to AUD 1.5372, and advanced 0.47% on the Kiwi, changing hands at NZD 1.6753.

On the oil front, Brent crude futures were last up 1.03% on ICE at $90.66, while the NYMEX quote for West Texas Intermediate increased 1.22% to $86.06.

Bank of Korea maintains policy rate, China's exports fall short

In economic news, the Bank of Korea decided to maintain its key policy rate at 3.5% for the 10th consecutive time, citing ongoing uncertainties in achieving target inflation levels.

Despite South Korea's consumer prices rising 3.1% year-on-year in March, the figure remained below the desired 2% target.

The central bank emphasised the need to maintain a restrictive monetary policy stance until greater confidence in achieving target inflation levels was established.

South Korea's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate meanwhile increased to 2.8% in March, up from 2.6% in February.

However, both the labour force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio showed slight year-on-year improvements.

Elsewhere, China reported a significant shortfall in exports for March, with a 7.5% year-on-year decline, far exceeding economists' expectations of a 2.3% drop.

The downturn marked a reversal from the 7.1% year-on-year gain in the prior two months.

Total trade in the world's second-largest economy also contracted by 5.1% year-on-year to $500.8bn, while the trade surplus shrank to $58.55bn, below the expected $70.2bn.

On a brighter note, Singapore's first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 2.7% year-on-year, surpassing the 2.2% growth seen in the prior quarter.

The manufacturing sector experienced moderate growth of 0.8% year on year in the first quarter, compared to a 1.4% growth in the quarter before.

Similarly, sectors such as wholesale and retail trade, and transportation and storage, showed improved year-on-year growth rates compared to the previous quarter.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.

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