Asian markets mostly rise as investors watch for signs of China relaxing COVID restrictions


TOKYO — Asian stocks advanced Monday as investors weighed uncertainties such as the U.S. mid-term elections and China’s possible moves to ease coronavirus restrictions.

China reported its trade shrank in October as global demand weakened and anti-virus controls weighed on domestic consumer spending. Exports declined 0.3% from a year earlier, down from September’s 5.7% growth, the customs agency reported Monday. Imports fell 0.7%, compared with the previous month’s 0.3% expansion.

Speculation about a possible relaxation of China’s zero-COVID strategy has had a huge impact on markets. On Monday, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
gained 3.4% and the Shanghai Composite Index
climbed 0.5%.

But there has been no official confirmation of a major change.

“Over the weekend, Beijing has dashed hopes of China re-opening in the horizon, by re-asserting of zero-COVID policies. And this could induce fresh caution,” said Tan Boon Heng at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225
jumped 1.3% in morning trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200
gained 0.4% and South Korea’s Kospi
gained 1%. Shares also rose in Taiwan
and Indonesia

In the U.S., Tuesday’s election will decide control of Congress and key governorships. History suggests the party in power may suffer significant losses in the midterms, and decades-high inflation has become a significant issue for the Democrats.

Analysts say regional markets may take a wait-and-see approach ahead of the U.S. mid-term vote.

Wall Street stocks ended last week with a rally but only after yo-yoing several times. Market watchers had data on the U.S. jobs market to digest, considering what it might mean for interest rates and the odds of a recession.

The S&P 500
recorded its first loss in the past three weeks, despite Friday’s gain 1.4% to 3,770.55. The Dow
rose 1.3% to 32,403.22, and the Nasdaq
climbed 1.3% to 10,475.25. Both also finished with losses for the week.

The unemployment rate ticked higher in October, employers added fewer jobs than they had a month earlier and gains for workers’ wages slowed a touch. The slowdown was still more modest than economists expected. And so the Fed is expected to keep hiking rates.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has called out a still-hot jobs market as one of the reasons the central bank may ultimately have to raise rates higher than earlier thought. Such moves could cause a recession.

The yield on the two-year Treasury fell to 4.68% from 4.72% late Thursday. The 10-year yield, which helps dictate rates for mortgages and other loans, edged higher to 4.16% from 4.15%.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude
fell $1.29 to $91.32 a barrel. Brent crude
the international standard, lost $1.13 to $97.44 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar
edged up to 147.22 Japanese yen from 146.65 yen.