Australia markets closed

Asian Stocks End 2018 With Upbeat Note

Asian stocks rose during morning trade Monday - Asian stocks rose during morning trade Monday, the last day of 2018, closing out a bad year on an upbeat note.

Stocks across the region were supported by claims from U.S. President Donald Trump of significant progress in trade talks with China.

Trump tweeted that negotiations are “moving very well” and “big progress” has been made and pointed to a “very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday. In comments to state media, Chinese President Xi Jinping said both the U.S. and China are looking for “stable progress.”

Those comments helped support shares in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index was up 1.09% to 25,778 by 9:15PM ET (2:15 AM GMT), almost halfway through the morning session of a shortened trading day. Markets in mainland China and Japan are closed.

Australia was also trading in positive territory, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.69% to 5,693.

Trading was thin ahead of the New Year’s Day holiday.

Still, closing out the year on an upbeat note is a small silver lining for investors in Asian equities, which have gone through their worst year since 2011.

The Hang Seng Index ETF (HK:2833) started out 2018 at 30,515 and has dropped more than 15% over the past 12 months.

Also putting a damper on any upbeat news was the release of a measure of Chinese manufacturing, which did not meet estimates and fell into contraction territory for the first time in more than two years.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics’ official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for December was 49.4, missing the 49.9 that analysts polled by Reuters had expected. A measure below 50 signals contraction.

The December PMI fell below an already weak reading of 50 recorded in November and was the weakest since February 2016, according to Reuters. New export orders have fallen for seven months straight.

The non-manufacturing PMI came in at 53.8, higher than the 53.4 measured in November. Services make up about half of the country’s economy.

The PMI numbers “suggest the economy is still decelerating,” Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian Economics Research at HSBC told CNBC. “That’s going to weigh down not just Chinese GDP growth but really global trade.”

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