China GDP, currencies in focus

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Most Asian stock markets closed higher on Wednesday, following the release of better-than-expected economic numbers from China.

Mainland Chinese shares were higher on the day. The Shanghai composite rose 0.29 percent to approximately 3,263.12 and the Shenzhen component added around 0.55 percent to about 10,344.43. The Shenzhen composite rose 0.721 percent to close at around 1,772.71.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was largely flat, as of its final hour of trading.

China said Wednesday its economy grew 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019, beating analysts’ expectations. A Reuters poll predicted the country’s gross domestic product would grow 6.3 percent year-on-year in the first three months of the year. China grew by 6.4 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of last year, and 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

“China’s high frequency economic indicators confirm that growth is bottoming out,” economists at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group wrote in a note following the data release.

“As the growth momentum of the Chinese economy picks up, we believe that policymakers will re-assess the need for further stimulus,” they said.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7199 following an earlier low of $0.7151. China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner, according to the latest data from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Investors have been watching the health of the Chinese economy — the world’s second largest — amid Beijing’s ongoing trade dispute with Washington. Official GDP figures are widely followed, but many experts have long expressed skepticism about the veracity of China’s reports.

China also released housing price data on Tuesday, reporting that average new home prices rose faster in March compared to a month earlier, according to Reuters’ calculation of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

“The housing data was interpreted as yet another signal that the China’s policy stimuli are beginning to show a positive effect on the economy,” Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a morning note.

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