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Marketmind: Nervous eyes on China trade


By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever.

Chinese trade figures for May top the Asia-Pacific economic data and events calendar on Wednesday with investors keen to see whether April’s shock slump in imports is repeated, which will offer clues on the health – or otherwise – of domestic demand.

Markets may get a tailwind from Tuesday’s global session – Wall Street ended higher and volatility fell to a pre-pandemic low, although the crypto world was rocked after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a second major lawsuit in as many days against industry giants.

First quarter GDP growth figures from Australia are also due on Wednesday, potentially giving the Aussie dollar and other local assets a nudge after the surprise interest rate hike from the country’s central bank on Tuesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters reckon the economy grew by 0.3% from the previous quarter, and by 2.4% compared with the same period a year ago. Both would mark a slower pace of growth from the fourth quarter of last year.

The Australian dollar could be in for a bout of profit taking on Wednesday after rallying strongly on Tuesday, a fourth straight rise, following the RBA’s rate hike and signaling of more to come.

That’s the Aussie’s longest winning streak in a month, and the currency is up almost 1% this week. It has not appreciated two weeks in a row since January.

Chinese trade data for May will be the main focus, especially imports, which have been sluggish for over a year. The scrapping of pandemic-era restrictions and lockdowns earlier this year was supposed to spur a surge in domestic demand, but that hasn’t happened.

The surprise 7.9% slump in imports in April was a major red flag that the economic re-opening was not going according to plan. It was one of the main catalysts for investors turning bearish on Chinese assets and the economy in recent weeks.

Economists polled by Reuters predict an 8.0% fall in imports for May, and a 0.4% decline in exports.

The Chinese yuan slid to new low for the year through 7.10 per dollar on Tuesday. Further signs of a struggling economy will likely keep the yuan on the defensive, even if the overall trade surplus is relatively large.

Overall, markets go into Wednesday in pretty fine fettle. The CBOE volatility index – the so-called Wall Street fear index – closed below 14.0 for the first time since February 2020.

Here are three key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Wednesday:

– China trade balance (May)

– Australia GDP (Q1)

– FX reserves – China, Japan, Indonesia

(By Jamie McGeever)

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