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Asian shares sink as China says 1Q growth at 4.8 per cent

BANGKOK (AP) – Shares were mostly lower in Asia and United States (US) futures fell after China reported yesterday that its economy expanded at a 4.8-per-cent annual pace in January-March.

Benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei and Shanghai. Seoul edged higher. Markets in Europe and in Hong Kong and Sydney were closed for holidays.

Wall Street benchmarks declined last week before closing for the Easter holiday.

China’s growth has fallen well below the official target of 5.5 per cent for 2022. In quarterly terms the economy grew 1.3 per cent in the first quarter, compared with 1.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2021.

Authorities have ordered shutdowns in some major cities including Shanghai to battle the country’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus since it flared into a pandemic in March 2020. But the biggest impact of the shutdowns will likely be seen in the current quarter.

“Overall, the data suggest that China started the year well, but as the quarter has moved on the headwinds have gotten stronger,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.5 per cent to 3,195.52. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index lost 1.1 per cent to 26,799.71 while the Kospi in Seoul edged 0.1 per cent lower, to 2,693.21. India’s Sensex dropped 2.2 per cent.

A currency trader passes by screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index. PHOTO: AP

The future for the S&P 500 lost 0.4 per cent and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2 per cent.

As trading resumed yesterday in some world markets, attention was focussed on Ukraine, where Ukrainian fighters were holding out against a capture of their shattered city of Mariupol after a seven-week siege, ignoring a surrender-or-die ultimatum from Russia.

The fall of Mariupol would be Moscow’s biggest victory of the war and free up troops to take part in a potentially climactic battle for control of Ukraine’s industrial east.

Ukraine was sending top officials to Washington for this week’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank amid dire warnings about the impact of the Russian invasion on the global economy.

A World Bank official said on Friday that Ukraine’s prime minister, finance minister and central bank governor are coming. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been officially announced.

The conflict has pushed prices for oil and other commodities sharply higher, compounding difficulties for policy makers trying to nurse along recoveries from the pandemic while also tamping down inflation that is at 40-year highs in many countries.

Central banks are raising interest rates that had stayed at record low levels to counter the devastation of the pandemic to help rein in price increases. But that can also discourage a revival in spending and investment needed to drive recoveries.

US benchmark crude oil reversed early gains yesterday, shedding 52 cents to USD106.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose USD2.70 to USD106.95 per barrel on Thursday, before closing for Good Friday.

Brent crude, the basis for pricing international oils gave up 49 cents to USD111.21 per barrel.

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