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Asian Shares Mixed, Investors Assess Economic Data From the U.S. and China

Asia Pacific stocks were mixed Friday morning, as investors digested the latest economic data from both the U.S. and China.

China’s Shanghai Composite was up 0.24% by 11:10 PM ET (3:10 AM GMT) while the Shenzhen Component was down 0.35%. Economic data released earlier in the day was also mixed, with the GDP for the first quarter growing 18.3% and 0.6% year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter respectively in March. Both figures were lower than forecasted, with economic growth soaring from a year earlier but slowing down quarter-on-quarter. Meanwhile, industrial production grew 14.1% year-on-year.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index inched up 0.07%. The city’s government said on Thursday that it would open its COVID-19 vaccination program to those aged between 16 and 29, with registration to commence in the following week.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged up 0.16%, even as an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the country could lead to the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, now less than 100 days away.

South Korea’s KOSPI inched down 0.05% and in Australia, the ASX 200 was down 0.35%.

Investors also continued to digest Thursday’s better-than-expected U.S. economic data, including retail sales and initial jobless claims.

"The U.S. economic data released yesterday was strong, confirming the U.S. economy is firmly on a recovery track," Mitsubishi UFJ (NYSE:MUFG) Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) Securities chief investment strategist Norihiro Fujito told Reuters.

A slide in bond yields including those from the benchmark 10-year Treasury notes, overshadowed better-than-expected revenues from Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC).

However, Treasuries climbed despite the better-than-expected U.S. data. There were suggestions that foreign buying and geopolitical risks, such as the U.S. slapping sanctions on Russia on Thursday, could have contributed to Treasuries’ gains and thus positioned investors for further weakness.

Equities hit a record high for the week thanks to a rebound in global economic growth, an upbeat start to the corporate earnings season and continued confidence that central banks, including the Federal Reserve, will continue their policy support.

However, some investors warned of the persistent risks highlighted in the government bond rally, as some countries face new waves of COVID-19 cases in addition to setbacks in their COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The bond market’s surge is currently “one of the more confusing dynamics in markets”, State Street (NYSE:STT) Global Advisors investment strategist Michael Arone told Bloomberg.

“Part of it is that you saw the 10-year make a very rapid move over a very short period of time, so this could be a pause before it starts to move higher again.”

In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin gained while Coinbase Global Inc. (NASDAQ:COIN) fell despite three funds at Ark Investment Management reportedly buying shares at the digital-asset exchange’s NASDAQ debut on Wednesday.