Asian markets rise on positive Chinese trade data
Hong Kong: Asian markets posted gains on Tuesday as better than expected Chinese trade data suggested a rebound from the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
China has largely brought the disease under control within its borders since the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year.
But it came at the cost of drastic measures that shuttered much of the economy and cordoned off tens of millions of people at the epicentre of the outbreak.
With much of the country returning to work and travel restrictions eased across industrial hub Wuhan, Tuesday's data beat market expectations.
Exports fell 6.6 percent and imports dropped 0.9 percent in March on a yearly basis, according to official figures -- falls that were well below the dire 10 percent or more forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
But Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics warned "the worst is still to come" for China's export businesses, with more economic headwinds likely in the months ahead as major trading partners battle their coronavirus outbreaks.
Investors will now await the release of China's quarterly GDP figures on Friday, with forecasters predicting a 6.2 percent contraction.
Regional bourses had already moved into positive territory before the trade figures were released.
Tokyo closed up more than 3.1 percent to a one-month high after gains in US stock index futures in late trading ahead of earnings reports from major American banks later Tuesday.
That data will be among the first to show the effects of the near-overnight economic shutdown in the country worst affected by the pandemic.
Nearly 600,000 people have tested positive for the disease across the US, and more than 23,500 have died.
Some market watchers say the US economy could bounce back relatively quickly once the coronavirus situation is managed, but others warn of a more protracted slowdown due to the risk of second-wave outbreaks.
Shanghai finished 1.6 percent higher and Hong Kong returned from a four-day break to trade up 0.8 percent in the afternoon.
Sydney was up 1.9 percent despite the forecast doubling of Australia's unemployment rate to 10 percent in the second quarter, and a National Australia Bank survey showing record-low business confidence.
The Australian dollar has also rallied from last month's 18-year lows with the slowdown in new coronavirus infections and signs of returning industrial activity in China, said AxiCorp chief market strategist Stephen Innes.
"The combination of early containment and quality health care system put Australia head and shoulders above many," he added.
London was trading 0.3 percent higher shortly after the opening bell.