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Hong Kong, Shanghai return to lead most Asia markets higher


[HONG KONG] Hong Kong and Shanghai investors returned from public holidays with healthy gains Wednesday, leading a broad advance across Asian markets after forecast-beating Chinese factory data lifted hopes for the world's number two economy.

However, regional gains were limited following soft leads from Wall Street and Europe as dealers fret about possibly tricky elections in Italy and crises enveloping Donald Trump's administration.

China said Wednesday that its purchasing managers index of manufacturing activity held up in May, beating expectations for a slip.

The reading indicated the sector continues to grow and suggests the economy is feeling the benefit of a pick-up in global demand.

Market voices on:

China's growth slowed to its weakest level in a quarter of a century in 2016 and is expected to ease this year as leaders look to address huge debt piles and recalibrate from trade and investment to consumer demand as the driver of expansion.

"The global economy will continue to recover and that'll bolster Chinese manufacturers," said Tommy Xie, an economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore, told Bloomberg News.

"But the deleveraging campaign will inevitably slow growth as tightening measures have already pushed up borrowing costs for factories." Shanghai, which was closed on Monday and Tuesday for a holiday, rose 0.7 per cent, while Hong Kong added 0.3 per cent as it returned from a one-day break.

Sydney added 0.3 per cent, Seoul was 0.4 per cent higher and Jakarta gained 0.3 per cent also. However, Tokyo ended the morning 0.1 per cent lower.


European markets finished in the red as Italy edges towards a possible elections in the autumn under a new proportional system. With opinion polls pointing to no stable majority traders are worried anti-EU parties could perform well, raising the prospect of fresh trouble for the bloc.

Also, another impasse between Greece and its creditors over its bailout conditions has raised concerns among investors again.

And Wall Street eased as US inflation remained soft in April, despite a modest increase, while consumer confidence slipped for a second straight month in May.

The readings come days before the release of closely watched US jobs data Friday, which is used as a guide for the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rate hikes.

"Even though consumer confidence dipped in May, it seems only an appalling May (jobs report)... could derail the Fed from a June hike," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

In currency trade the pound was struggling after a fresh opinion poll suggested Prime Minister Theresa May's ruling Conservatives could lose their parliamentary majority in next week's general election.

Sterling had soared in recent weeks on the prospect May would win a landslide in the June 8 poll, giving her a stronger hand in Brexit talks. But the currency has fallen with the government's poll numbers on fears Britain could end up with a bad EU exit deal.