China keeps benchmark lending rate unchanged

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Wednesday as China kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 1.35% to close at 26,136.02 leading gains among major markets in the region.

Shares of Chinese tech firms listed in the city surged, with Tencent up 2.1% while Alibaba soared 6.67% and Meituan jumped 2.87%. The Hang Seng Tech index also gained 2.65% to 6,691.33.

Alibaba’s gains came amid reports that its founder Jack Ma, who has largely been out of public view for months since making comments that appeared to criticize Chinese regulators, was traveling Europe.

Mainland Chinese stocks closed lower, with the Shanghai composite slipping 0.17% to 3,587 while the Shenzhen component dipped 0.328% to 14,452.25.

China on Wednesday kept the one-year loan prime rate (LPR) unchanged at 3.85% while the five-year LPR was also held steady at 4.65%. That was in line with expectations from a majority of traders and analysts in a snap Reuters poll who had predicted no change in both the one-year loan prime rate as well as the five-year LPR.

China real estate shares mostly slip

Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese real estate firms mostly slipped on Wednesday as developments surrounding debt-ridden China Evergrande Group and signs of slowing property sales weighed on investor sentiment.

China Vanke fell 0.71% while Country Garden declined 0.64%. Sunac, on the other hand, rose 0.98%. The Hang Seng Properties Index edged 0.74% higher to 30,864.92.

Evergrande shelved plans to sell a majority stake in its property services business, Reuters reported.

Official data released Wednesday also showed growth of new home prices in China stalling in September for the first time since Feb. 2020, according to Reuters. China Beige Book’s Leland Miller told CNBC on Tuesday that China needs new growth drivers as its property sector slows down.

Other Asia-Pacific markets rise

Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 0.14% to close at 29,255.55 while the Topix index edged fractionally higher to 2,027.67. Shares in Australia advanced, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.53% higher at 7,413.70.

South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.53% on the day to 3,013.13.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.51%.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday slashed its 2021 economic growth forecast for Asia, now expecting the region to grow by 6.5% this year. That compared against the IMF’s April forecast for a 7.6% expansion.

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Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 rose 0.74% to 4,519.63 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 198.70 points to 35,457.31. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.71% to 15,129.09.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.822 following a recent bounce from below 93.6.

The Japanese yen traded at 114.36 per dollar, weaker than levels below 114 seen against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7492 following yesterday’s climb from below $0.745.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures slipping 0.83% to $84.37 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 0.76% to $82.33 per barrel.