Asian stock markets pare gains after disappointing China factory output figures

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stock markets pared gains Thursday as concerns about China’s economy resurfaced after lacklustre factory production and other data.

China said its industrial production rose 8.6 per cent in the first two months of this year, a rate slower than analysts expected, and home sales dropped 5 per cent. After the reports, stocks in Hong Kong and Japan turned negative while markets in South Korea and China trimmed earlier gains. Other figures, such as retail sales growth in China also fell short of estimates.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 drifted 0.1 per cent lower to 14,815.98 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 0.4 per cent to 21,807.55. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.9 per cent to 2,015.03.

South Korea’s Kospi added just 0.1 per cent to 1,934.38. The Bank of Korea kept its interest rate steady for another month but its governor said domestic consumer demand is picking up.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.5 per cent to 5,412.60. Stocks in Taiwan and Indonesia also advanced.

New Zealand’s currency and its stock market rose after the country’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by quarter of a percentage point to 2.75 per cent in the first such rate hike by a developed nation since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Asian markets were sold off Wednesday by worries over China’s economic outlook and subsequent drops in commodity prices.

The price of copper extended its losses amid expectations that a slowdown in China, a major consumer of raw materials and energy, would cut global demand for those commodities.

Oil eked out gains with a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery up 8 cents to $98.07 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.04, or 2 per cent, to close at $97.99 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3940 from $1.3904 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 102.59 yen from 102.72 yen.