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20 Jan 2021 | 11:18

Asia report: Markets mostly higher as China stands pat on rates

(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia closed mostly higher on Wednesday, as China stood pat on interest rates, with Chinese internet giant Alibaba in focus. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.28% at 28,523.26, as the yen strengthened 0.1% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 103.80.

Automation specialist Fanuc managed gains of 1.46%, while among the benchmark's other major components, fashion firm Fast Retailing was down 2% and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group was 0.73% weaker.

The broader Topix index lost 0.34% by the end of trading in Tokyo, closing at 1,849.58.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was 0.47% firmer at 3,583.09, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite added 1.43% at 2,412.56.

The People's Bank of China sated market expectations on Wednesday by keeping interest rates on hold, with the one-year loan prime rate unchanged at 3.85% and the five-year rate held at 4.65%.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.71% to 3,114.55, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong advanced 1.08% to 29,962.47.

Shares in Alibaba rocketed 8.52% in the special administrative region, after founder Jack Ma reappeared, having spent weeks out of the spotlight.

Ma appeared in a video on Chinese social media, speaking to rural teachers on behalf of his charitable foundation, following weeks of silence from him as his companies were met with increasing scrutiny from authorities.

Other Chinese tech stocks followed Alibaba's lead in Hong Kong, with Meituan rising 9.09% and Tencent adding 3.74%.

The blue-chip technology stocks were mixed in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics up 0.23%, while SK Hynix was flat.

Korean carmaker Kia Motors rocketed 5.04% after the Reuters reported it was considering electric car projects with a number of partners.

That report followed claims by a local media outlet that Kia's largest shareholder Hyundai Motor had decided Kia would be in charge of a proposed electric vehicle partnership with California-based consumer technology giant Apple.

"The inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden later on Wednesday will draw focus on to the big stimulus plans outlined by the incoming administration, but trading in Asia overnight and Europe suggests the course of the pandemic is still creating plenty of nervousness among investors," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

Oil prices were higher at the end of the Asian day, with Brent crude last up 0.88% at $56.39 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate ahea 1.27%m at $53.65.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.41% to 6,770.40, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 rose 1.13% to 13,026.45.

Both of the down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last ahead 0.45% at AUD 1.2935, and the Kiwi advancing 0.28% to NZD 1.4011.
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