Asian markets were slightly higher as China took the next, critical step in a long-awaited money management reform, and as the United States gave the Chinese tech company Huawei a slight reprieve in Washington’s ongoing trade war with Beijing.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) edged up 0.2%, following a 2.1% gain the day before.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) was up 0.1% after being lower earlier in the day. The index rallied 2.2% on Monday, its biggest daily gain in two months.
On Tuesday morning the People’s Bank of China set its new Loan Prime Rate at 4.25% — slightly lower than its existing benchmark one-year lending rate, which hasn’t changed in years. The LPR is supposed to better reflect changes in market rates, and has been described as effectively a rate cut. But analysts also suspect the tweak won’t make a huge impact on the Chinese economy.
The LPR will be set on the 20th of each month and serve as a new guidance rate for Chinese banks to price their loans to clients.
“While this should nudge banks to reduce lending rates slightly, the impact on economic activity will be marginal,” wrote analysts from Capital Economics in a research note Tuesday, adding that unlike a benchmark cut, “it will only feed through to borrowing costs on new loans, not outstanding ones.”
The upshot, they added, is that China’s central bank “still has work to do.”
Chinese property developers that are listed on the Hang Seng pulled back. Country Garden, one of China’s largest developers by sales, fell 1.5% Tuesday after surging 5.8% on Monday.
Chinese banks listed in Hong Kong also weakened. ICBC dropped 0.8%. China’s rate reform can hurt bank profitability, since it affects their lending margins.
Asian markets also had a chance to consider news from Washington on Monday that the US government would add more than 45 new businesses associated with Huawei to an export blacklist.
At the same time, the government said it was renewing a temporary license that allows companies in the United States to sell products to Huawei in some cases. The renewal lasts for 90 days and went into effect on Monday.
“While it is not unexpected, the extension for the easing of Huawei sanctions had added to the relief for markets at the start of the week,” wrote Jingyi Pan, a market strategist for IG Group, in a research note. She pointed out that US stocks in particular edged higher.
Chinese tech stocks on Tuesday soared. AAC Technologies and Sunny Optical Technology, both suppliers of Huawei, jumped 4.8% and 5.9%, respectively, in Hong Kong.
But Ken Cheung Kin Tai, chief foreign exchange strategist for Asia at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong, said the extension on the reprieve signaled a “procrastination” of the US-China trade talks, rather than offering a resolution.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) rose 0.5%. South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) was up about 1%. Japan has approved shipments of a high-tech material to South Korea for the second time since imposing export restrictions last month, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9%, extending a 1% rise on Monday. The Australian central bank released on Tuesday the minutes of its policy meeting for August. It showed the policymakers believe it’s “reasonable” for interest rates to stay low for an extended period to support economic growth.