Asia Pacific stocks mixed as China’s manufacturing activity in August beats forecasts

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed in Tuesday trade as a private survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity in August expanding at its fastest pace in nearly 10 years.

Mainland Chinese stocks recovered from an earlier slip to rise by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite up fractionally while the Shenzhen component added 0.224%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was below the flatline.

The moves came as the Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for August came in at 53.1. On Monday, China’s official manufacturing PMI for August came in at 51.0, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Following the release, the onshore Chinese yuan strengthened to 6.8193 per dollar, as compared to levels above 6.84 against the greenback seen yesterday. Its offshore counterpart changed hands at 6.8202 per dollar. 

Economic data releases from China have been watched by investors for signs of the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. PMI readings above 50 signify expansion, while those below that figure indicate contraction. PMI readings are sequential and indicate on-month expansion or contraction.

“The strong yuan story is really the flipside of the weaker dollar,” Clive McDonnell, head of equity strategy at Standard Chartered Private Bank, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” Tuesday.

“For now, it does seem that the weaker dollar is set to continue and in line with that, yuan strength will continue unless we see some … sharp developments as we head towards the November presidential election,” McDonnell said.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia led losses among the region’s major markets as it fell 1.85%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was slightly lower while the Topix index shed 0.26%. South Korea’s Kospi added 1.07%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 0.36%.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on Tuesday maintained its targets for the cash rate and yield on 3-year Australian Government bonds.

Following the RBA’s announcement, the Australian dollar last changed hands at $0.7399 following a rise yesterday from levels around $0.735.

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average wrapped up their best August performances in decades. The Dow fell 223.82 points, or 0.8%, to end its trading day on Wall Street at 28,430.05 and the S&P 500 shed 0.2% to close at 3,500.31. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.7% and finished its trading day at 11,775.46.

The Monday moves left the Dow up 7.6% for August, its biggest gain for that month since 1984. The S&P 500 rose 7% for the same month, notching its best August performance since 1986.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 91.806 following an earlier slip from around the 92.4 mark.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.72 per dollar after seeing levels around 105.5 against the greenback yesterday.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 1.08% to $45.77 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.94% to $43.01 per barrel.

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