(Ambar Warrick) Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks rose on Wednesday amid speculation over peak U.S. interest rates ahead of key inflation data, while weak economic readings spurred a heavy dose of profit taking in Japanese markets.
A positive overnight finish on Wall Street also buoyed regional stocks, as comments from Federal Reserve officials suggested that the central bank was close to ending its current rate hike cycle.
Still, gains in Asian markets were limited ahead of key U.S. consumer price index (CPI) inflation data due later in the day. While overall inflation is expected to have retreated, core CPI inflation is expected to remain sticky, which in turn is expected to invite more rate hikes by the Fed in the near-term.
Hong Kong stocks were the key outliers for the day, with investors remaining heavily biased towards Chinese technology giants on bets that the country was easing its harsh rhetoric against its biggest internet companies.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index surged 1.2%, leading Asian gains on strength in heavyweight technology stocks. Shares of Baidu Inc (HK:9888) (NASDAQ:BIDU), Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (HK:9988) (NYSE:BABA) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:0700)- the BAT trio- rose between 1.6% and 3.5%.
A bumper fine on Alibaba’s Ant Group and Tencent fueled expectations that China was now winding down its three-year regulatory crusade against local technology firms. Investors also bet that worsening economic conditions in China will push the government into encouraging private investment in technology firms,
Other Hong Kong-listed Chinese stocks also advanced, as Chinese state media reported that Beijing is likely to roll out more stimulus measures to support a slowing economic recovery.
But China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes traded flat, with investors remaining wary of making direct plays into Chinese markets.
Broader Asian markets advanced, albeit slightly, as investors remained on edge before the U.S. CPI reading. South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.2%, while Australia’s ASX 200 rose 0.4%.
Futures for India’s Nifty 50 pointed to a positive open for local stocks, as optimism over the Indian economy and heavy technology exposure drove the Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex 30 to record highs this week. Indian markets are also awaiting local CPI data, due later in the day.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was the worst performer in Asia for the day, down 0.7%, while the broader TOPIX shed 0.6%. Both indexes pulled further away from 33-year highs hit earlier in the month, and were trading at one-month lows.
Weak economic data from Japan triggered another round of profit taking in local stocks, as weaker-than-expected machinery orders, easing factory inflation and a rising unemployment rate raised questions over just how resilient the Japanese economy was.
A surge in the yen also pressured export-oriented Japanese stocks.