Hong Kong leads gains in Asia markets as Alibaba soars 10%

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were higher on Wednesday, with Hong Kong leading gains regionally.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong jumped 2.24% to close at 22,014.59 as Chinese tech stocks listed in the city soared: Alibaba surged 10.12% while Tencent climbed 6.47% and NetEase gained 5.66%.

The Shanghai Composite in mainland China closed 0.68% higher at 3,263.79 while the Shenzhen Component climbed 0.818% to 12,033.26.

RBI announces rate hike

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday raised a key interest rate.

The RBI will raise the policy repo rate by 50 basis points to 4.9% with immediate effect, Governor Shaktikanta Das said. The repo rate refers to the rate at which the central bank lends to commercial banks. Economists in a Reuters poll had predicted a rate hike of between 25 to 75 basis points.

“It may be noted in this context that the repo rate still remains below its pre-pandemic level,” the Indian central bank chief said.

Following the announcement, both the Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex in India rose close at 0.4% each, as of 1:44 pm local time. The Indian rupee traded at 77.763 per dollar, weaker as compared with levels below 77.4 seen against the greenback last week.

The RBI’s decision comes after the Reserve Bank of Australia’s surprise 50 basis point rate hike on Tuesday.

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In other markets, the Nikkei 225 in Japan advanced 1.04% to close at 28,234.29 while the Topix index climbed 1.18% to 1,969.98.

Japan’s economy shrank an annualized 0.5% in the first quarter, revised government data showed Wednesday — an improvement over the initial estimate of a 1% contraction.

South Korea’s Kospi closed little changed at 2,626.15. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 0.36% to finish the trading day at 7,121.10.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 1.13%.

The World Bank on Tuesday cut its global growth forecast to 2.9% for 2022 and warned of the world economy slipping into a period of stagflation reminiscent of the 1970s.

“These sort of headlines — around risk of stagflation, slower growth — these are things the market has been, you know, trading on … for most of the year already,” Kieran Calder, head of equity research for Asia at UBP, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday.

Calder described the World Bank’s expectation for 4.3% growth in 2022 for China as “pretty aggressive,” given that multiple banks have cut their outlook for the country. UBP is looking for “below 4% GDP growth” in China this year, he said.

Currencies and oil

The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 102.619 after seeing an earlier low of 102.387.

The Japanese yen traded at 133.62 per dollar, weaker than levels below 132 seen against the dollar yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7189, off an earlier high of $0.7235.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.39% to $121.04 per barrel. US crude futures gained 0.55% to $120.07 per barrel.

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