Asian markets start week on cautious note

A panel displays the closing Hang Seng Index outside a bank in Hong Kong, China. Reuters file photo.

Asian markets were largely flat on Monday morning following weak US trading at the end of last week and as nervousness over Chinese growth put pressure on global equities.

After early gains, Hong Kong hovered between positive and negative territory, edging up 0.2 percent by mid-morning.

Tokyo and Shanghai stocks were largely unchanged, with Tokyo trading down by 0.1 percent.

"Flagging growth in China revived global growth concerns," Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at OANDA.

"Specifically, it was Friday's China factory gate inflation wobble that is weighing on global equities and commodities alike."

China's economy will be in the spotlight this week, with key monthly data expected Wednesday and stocks tumbling last week on mounting concerns of a slowdown.

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba took a record $30.7 billion in orders on Sunday during its annual "Singles Day" shopping frenzy.

However sales growth slowed to 27 percent this year from 39 percent growth in 2017, adding to mounting concerns over the outlook for the Asian powerhouse.

"But where we can get some comfort from this number is that Chinese consumers are slowing, not collapsing," Junheng Li, founder of JL Warren Capital LLC, told Bloomberg News.

China's banking stocks were seeing mixed performance Monday after the government gave new guidance on requirements for banks to lend to private companies. Last week bank shares dropped as investors balked at what were seen as unprecedented government demands on lenders.

The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was up 0.2 percent in Hong Kong, while the China Construction Bank lost 0.1 percent.

Markets across Asia were cautious through the morning, with Taiwan up 0.2 percent, Seoul edging down 0.3 percent, and Sydney up 0.1 percent.

There was some relief on the oil markets following last week's slump, after a key meeting of oil producers took place in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.

The OPEC group and its allies started laying the groundwork to cut supply in 2019, reversing an almost year-long expansion.

Khalid al-Falih, energy minister of the world's top supplier Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom would cut its production by 500,000 barrels per day.

Oil prices rallied Monday morning, with both Brent Crude and WTI seeing gains.

Innes said it was in OPEC's "best interests to tame the current supply glut" as "oil prices above $80 are never welcome by OPEC customers".

Last week, higher US energy stockpiles drove benchmark WTI crude to its longest losing streak in more than 30 years, while Brent Crude dropped below $70 a barrel for the first time since April.

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 22,237.19

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 25,641.67

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 2,601.10

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1328 from $1.1351 at 2200 GMT Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2941 from $1.3022

Dollar/yen: UP at 113.99 yen from 113.76 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 51 cents at $60.71 per barrel

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 71 cents at $70.89 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.8 percent at 25,989.30 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,105.34 points (close)

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Asian markets start week on cautious note

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