Asian stocks slide as Fed jitters outweigh positive Chinese data

Most Asian stock markets sank on Tuesday as fears of hawkish signals from a Federal Reserve meeting this week largely outweighed data showing that Chinese business activity rebounded in January.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes fell 1% and 0.5%, respectively, even as government data showed Chinese manufacturing and services activity rebounded sharply into expansion territory in January.

The reading indicates that the relaxing of anti-COVID curbs in the country is having a positive effect on the economy, and is likely to spur a broader recovery later this year. Chinese bourses were also set to gain for a third consecutive month, albeit slightly.

Technology-heavy indexes in Asia were the worst performers for the day, as an overnight rout in U.S. heavyweights spilled over. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 1%, while South Korea’s KOSPI and the Taiwan Weighted index shed 0.7% and 1.3%, respectively.

Tech stocks were rattled by anticipation of the Fed meeting, with the central bank set to hike rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday. But markets are wary of any hawkish signals from the Fed, given that recent signs of resilience in the U.S. economy give the central bank more headroom to keep raising interest rates.

Losses in Japan’s Nikkei 225 were somewhat limited, after data showed that retail sales grew more than expected in December. The reading indicates that despite a slowdown in Japan’s industrial sector, non-manufacturing businesses still remain resilient.

Japanese stocks were also among the best performers in Asia for January, up nearly 5% after the Bank of Japan ducked market expectations and kept its yield curve control policy unchanged.

Australia’s ASX 200 index fell 0.2%, as substantially weaker than expected retail sales data brewed more concerns over the economy, which is facing increased headwinds from rising inflation and high interest rates.

India’s Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex 30 indexes sank about 0.4% each, even as a rout in the shares of companies under the Adani Group (NS:ADEL) appeared to have eased. Local markets turned jittery in anticipation of the 2023 budget, which is set to be released on Wednesday.

Losses in Adani and stocks linked to the conglomerate put Indian shares on course to vastly underperform their Asian peers in January. The Nifty 50 was set to lose 3.1%, while the BSE Sensex 30 was down 2.7% this month.

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