Asian Shares Retreat As Growth Worries Return To Fore

Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Friday as concerns about the banking crisis persisted despite comments from regulators that they would take additional steps as needed to support the financial system.

Chinese shares fell notably as heavily indebted Evergrande Group announced its long-awaited debt restructuring. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.6 percent to 3,265.65, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index settled 0.7 percent lower at 19,915.68, dragged down by lenders and property developers.

Japanese shares ended slightly lower after a survey showed manufacturing activity in the country contracted for a fifth straight month in March.

However, a key measure of inflation eased as expected in February, helping ease pressure on the Bank of Japan to immediately tighten policy.

The Nikkei 225 Index edged down 0.1 percent to 27,385.25, while the broader Topix closed 0.1 percent lower at 1,955.32.

Banks Mizuho Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial fell around 1 percent each. Tech stocks finished higher, with Tokyo Electron and Screen Holdings climbing 2-3 percent.

Seoul stocks edged lower to snap a three-day winning streak. The Kospi eased 0.4 percent to end at 2,414.96 after the Bank of England joined Norway and Switzerland in hiking interest rates.

While financials and automakers led losses, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics both ended up over 1 percent.

Australian markets fell, with financial, technology and energy stocks pacing the decliners. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto eked out modest gains.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.2 percent to 6,955.20 ahead of retail sales and inflation data due next week and the RBA policy meeting on April 4. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended 0.2 percent lower at 7,137.60.

Block Inc. shares plunged 18.4 percent after Hindenburg Research alleged the company overstated its user numbers and understated its customer acquisition costs.

The manufacturing sector in Australia slipped into contraction territory in March, a preliminary survey from Judo Bank revealed today, with a manufacturing PMI score of 48.7, down from 50.5 in February.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P NZX-50 Index settled 0.1 percent lower at 11,580.81.

U.S. stocks ended a volatile session higher overnight after U.S. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen reassured that regulators are prepared to take more action to keep deposits safe at banks.

On the economic front, the latest reports on weekly jobless claims and new home sales painted a positive picture of the economy.

The Dow inched up 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 1 percent as Treasury yields sank amid signs that the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its tightening cycle.

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