Asia markets mostly up after forecast-beating China growth

Hong Kong (China) (AFP) –


Asian markets mostly rose on Tuesday following news that China's economy grew more than expected in the first three months of the year, but trade and geopolitical tensions continue to dog sentiment.

Investors in Hong Kong and China reversed initial losses to swing back to positive territory after data showed the world's number two economy expanded in January-March at the same rate as the previous three months.

The 6.8 percent reading was slightly more than tipped in an AFP survey and came despite a brewing trade spat with the United States, a drive to address the country's troubling debt mountain and a war on pollution that saw factory production cut.

In morning exchanges, Hong Kong was up 0.4 percent and Shanghai gained 0.2 percent. Sydney, where a number of firms that rely on Chinese business are based, added 0.4 percent, while Singapore gained 0.1 percent.

Tokyo ended the morning session marginally higher.

But Seoul eased 0.1 percent, Wellington dipped 0.2 percent and Taipei fell 0.8 percent.

"The economic performance continued to improve and the economy was off to a good start," National Statistics Bureau spokesman Xing Zhihong said.

- Investors 'on guard' -

However, Xia Le, chief Asia economist at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA in Hong Kong, said ahead of the release that "growth headwinds remain in place, mainly from domestic policy tightening and trade skirmishes from the US. Growth is most likely to moderate through the year".

The news provided support to equities after Monday's sell-off that came in response to a US-led attack on alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, in response to what the Western allies say was a toxic gas attack by the Russia-backed regime.

US markets ended higher on relief that the strikes did not escalate, despite Russian warnings about the consequences of such actions.

However, dealers are keeping a close watch on events, while the trade row with China remains in focus after the Wall Street Journal reported the US is considering measures over Beijing's restrictions on tech devices.

That came just after Washington banned exports of sensitive tech to Chinese giant ZTE for seven years over the way it handled a probe into the illegal sale of goods to Iran and North Korea.

ZTE halted trading of its shares in Hong Kong and Shenzhen following the announcement, saying in a statement on its website it was "assessing the possible impact of the incident".

"Global capital markets stayed in a positive mood overnight, but investors remain on guard for any escalations in geopolitical tensions while trade tariffs remain bubbling under the surface," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

Oil prices bounced back slightly from Monday's losses that were fuelled by easing concerns over Syria.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 21,837.39 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 30,448.95

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,117.43

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2385 from $1.2380 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.05 yen from 107.11

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4345 from $1.4341

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 34 cents at $66.56 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 32 cents at $71.74 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 24,573.04 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.9 percent at 7,198.20 (close)