| 3 December 2023, Sunday |

Asia stocks slip as China stays stingy on stimulus

Asian stocks stumbled on Monday after China delivered a smaller cut to lending rates than markets had counted on, continuing Beijing’s run of disappointingly frugal stimulus steps.

China’s central bank trimmed its one-year lending rate by 10 basis points and left its five-year rate unmoved, a surprise to analysts who had expected cuts of 15 basis points to both.

Disappointment at the meagre move saw Chinese blue chips (.CSI300) ease 0.4% to the lowest in almost nine months, while the Australian dollar took a brief dip as a proxy for China risk.

Investors have been hoping for a repeat of the massive fiscal spending that has juiced the economy in the past, even though Beijing seems reluctant to add to its borrowing tasks.

Indeed, there was chatter in the market that the authorities skipped a cut in the five-year rate precisely because there was more significant action on the way.

Sentiment was also helped by a rush of Chinese companies outlining plans for share buybacks as regulators voiced support for the moves.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) still slipped 0.4% to a fresh low for the year, adding to a 3.9% dive last week. Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) was up 0.4%, though that follows a 3.2% drop last week.

EUROSTOXX 50 futures and FTSE futures both edged up 0.1%, while S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures were near flat. Earnings from AI-darling Nvidia (NVDA.O) on Wednesday will be a major test of valuations.

Analysts are concerned the market has got too long, especially of tech, leaving it vulnerable to a deeper pullback.

BofA’s latest survey of fund managers found sentiment was the least bearish since February 2022, while cash levels were at nearly a two-year low, and 3 out of 4 surveyed expect a soft landing or no landing for the global economy.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, argue there is still scope for investors to add to equity positions.

“The re-opening of the buy-back blackout window will provide a boost to equity demand in coming weeks although a flurry of expected equity issuance this fall may provide a partial offset,” they wrote in a note.

  • Reuters