Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose by 0.5% and the Shanghai Composite fell 0.1% after data showed that Asia’s largest economy grew by 7.4% in the January to March period compared with a year earlier, a touch higher than expectations of 7.3%. Market reaction was muted, as the figure is below the official 7.5% expansion target, and slower than the 7.7% increase in the final quarter of last year.
China also released data showing its industrial output in March gained 8.8% on-year, compared with an expected 9%.Concerns over slowing growth and rising debt have weighed on China stocks this year, with both Hong Kong and Shanghai falling sharply on Tuesday after data showed growth in credit. Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies have performed poorly this year, with the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index down 7.1% year-to-date.
The biggest gains in the region were made by Japan, where the Nikkei rose 2.1% as the yen weakened through the ¥102-to-the-dollar mark. The moves follow Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s comment that the Japanese economy is on a steady track toward 2% inflation--a key target of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to reawaken the stagnant Japanese economy.
Also supporting the Nikkei was index heavyweight SoftBank Corp., which added 8.2%, after Alibaba reported that fourth-quarter profits more than doubled to more than $1.3 billion. SoftBank owns a 37% stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant.
The dollar was last at ¥102.23, up a touch from ¥101.96 late Tuesday in New York.
Japanese stocks are bouncing back from sharp falls in recent sessions, with the Nikkei experiencing its worst week in three years last week, as doubts over Mr. Abe’s economic program coupled with a stronger yen punished the market.
Elsewhere in Asia, markets digested events that sparked a volatile session in the U.S.: disappointing economic data, some strong blue-chip earnings reports and continued geopolitical tensions in Ukraine. Although Wall Street ended the day higher, regional markets were only slightly higher ahead of a flurry of economic data to come from China.
Australia’s S&P ASX 200 added 0.4%, South Korea’s Kospi was up less than 0.1% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.2%.