China stocks lead Asia gains in tepid holiday trade

Tokyo: Chinese stocks started the week on a positive footing Monday but trade was lacklustre with many major global markets closed for Easter and Japanese shares drifted lower.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index appeared to gain some traction from comments by Chinese policymakers reiterating support for the economy at a meeting of top officials last week.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index opened 0.24 percent higher, or 7.69 points, to reach 3,278.49 points. The second-tier Shenzhen Composite Index was fractionally higher at the opening bell.

Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks moved lower as investors looked to square positions ahead of an unprecedented 10-day market closure in Japan to celebrate the enthronement of a new emperor on May 1.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged down 0.12 percent or 25.84 points to 22,174.72 in early trade. The broader Topix index was down more, off 0.24 percent or 3.94 points at 1,612.99.

However, Hideyuki Ishiguro, strategist at Daiwa Securities, said there was a lack of “fresh market-moving events” driving trade early Monday.

Traders may be holding fire as they await a two-day meeting of the Bank of Japan later in the week. Some companies, including gaming giant Nintendo, are also unveiling their latest results.

Precision motor maker Nidec is reporting on Tuesday and industrial robot maker Fanuc the day after, noted Ishiguro, who added that investors would also be scrutinising results from US IT giants Amazon and Microsoft later this week.

In other individual Japanese stocks, SoftBank Group was down 0.21 percent at 11,520 yen and Panasonic down 0.24 percent at 1,028.5 yen.

Turning to foreign exchange markets, Resona Bank said in a commentary that trade would also be affected by the holidays.

The dollar-yen rate was flat, with the greenback fetching 111.94 yen in early Asian trade, against 111.91 yen on Friday in Asia.

Stephen Innes, head of trading at SPI Asset Management, said that a “positive confluence of events continues to support risk sentiment.”

The markets “should remain in a happy place provided the Federal Reserve stays on the dovish course as indeed cheap and plentiful money has a most soothing effect on equity investors,” he said.

Markets in Hong Kong and Australia were closed for the Easter break while many European and US markets will also not trade on Monday.

Both Brent Crude and WTI oil markets were higher by nearly two percent, as traders await an announcement from the US that it will end its waivers for all countries in its sanctions on oil purchases from Iran.