Asian shares trading mixed as China reports growth slowed

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A woman wearing face a mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Asian shares are mixed, taking their cue from a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

TOKYO – Asian shares were mixed Thursday, taking their cues from a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street.

China reported its economy expanded at a 7.9% annual rate in the last quarter, down from 18.3% in January-March in a leveling off of its relatively early recovery from the pandemic.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.2% to finish at 28,279.09. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3% to 7,335.90. South Korea's Kospi added 0.5% to 3,282.35. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1% to 28,082.00, while the Shanghai Composite rose nearly 1.0% to 3,563.20.

Reaction to China's latest data was muted, said Harpreet Bhal of ActivTrades.

“Investors will be watching the dynamics of the narrative around China’s monetary and fiscal easing as worries around H2 growth materialize after a possible pick-up in global activity in the first half of this year," Bhal said in a commentary.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 eked out a 0.1% gain, to 4,374.30, after recovering from an early stumble and then losing much of its momentum by late afternoon, as a rally in technology stocks was kept in check by a slide in banks and energy companies. The benchmark index recovered some of its losses from a day earlier, but finished just short of its all-time high set on Monday.

The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.2%, to 14,644.95, despite gains by several big tech companies including Apple. Small company stocks continued to lag the broader market.

Investors had a mixed reaction to a new batch of earnings news from banks, airlines and other companies, as well as the latest report showing another rise in inflation. They also kept an eye on the latest comments on inflation from the Federal Reserve chair, who reaffirmed the Fed's view that the surge in costs across the economy is temporary.

“Investors right now are focusing on earnings because they are still buying what the Fed is saying about inflation (and) that it’s too early to start to raise rates and potentially slow a reopening economy,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1%, to 34,993.23. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies slid 1.6% to 2,202.36.

Banks mostly fell even after several of them turned in solid earnings reports. Citigroup gave up an early gain and fell 0.3%, despite reporting a more than five-fold rise in profits, helped by an improving economy that resulted in fewer bad loans on the bank’s balance sheet. Wells Fargo rose 4% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after reporting its most profitable quarter in two years.

Mixed results from Bank of America disappointed investors. It fell 2.5% after reporting solid profits, but weak revenue.

Airlines showed more signs of recovery as people begin to resume travel for work and leisure. American Airlines rose 3% after giving investors an encouraging update on its second-quarter financial picture.

Outside of earnings, investors are still closely watching measures of inflation to better gauge how it could impact the recovery. Inflation at the wholesale level jumped 1% in June, pushing price gains over the past 12 months up by a record 7.3%. The news on wholesale prices followed a report Tuesday that consumer prices increased in June by 0.9% and were up 5.4% over the past 12 months, the biggest 12-month gain in 13 years.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested in testimony to a House committee that inflation will likely remain elevated, but eventually moderate, reinforcing the central bank's position that rising inflation is a temporary impact from the recovering economy.

Long-term bond yields were mostly lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.34% from 1.41% late Tuesday.

Energy companies had some of the biggest losses, partly due to a 2.8% drop in the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil. Occidental Petroleum fell 7.5% for the biggest drop in the S&P 500, while Cabot Oil & Gas slid 5%.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 78 cents to $72.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped $2.12 to $73.13 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 67 cents to $74.09 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 109.80 Japanese yen from 109.97 yen. The euro cost $1.1843, up from $1.1838.