A pedestrian walks past an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo on October 1, 2018. Picture: Martin BUREAU / AFP
A pedestrian walks past an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo on October 1, 2018. Picture: Martin BUREAU / AFP

Shanghai — Asian shares rebounded on Monday after strong US first-quarter economic growth boosted the S&P 500 index to a record high. The recovery was also supported by data showing profits at Chinese industrial companies grew for the first time in four months.

Still nagged by uncertainty over the outlook for the global economy, investors were awaiting a meeting of the US Federal Reserve this week and Chinese factory data for further clues on policy direction in the world’s biggest economies.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.38%, rebounding from its biggest weekly drop in more than a month last week.

Chinese blue-chips jumped 1% after losing 5.6% last week.

Australian shares were down 0.43% after hitting an 11-year closing high on Friday, while Seoul’s Kospi was up 0.74%.

Japan’s financial markets are closed for a long national holiday this week, but Nikkei 225 futures in Singapore were 0.85% higher.

Monday’s gains follow data showing US GDP grew at a faster, 3.2%, annualised rate in the first quarter. On another positive note, Chinese data showed industrial profits grew in March after four months of contraction, but analysts said sentiment remains fragile.

“Investors are still looking for direction in terms of growth, but at the same time there is still quite a lot of uncertainty” on US-China trade and the US dollar, said Joanne Goh, equity strategist at DBS Bank in Singapore.

“A strong US dollar doesn’t really bode well for Asian markets,” she added.

In contrast with weakness in Asian markets last week, Wall Street ended Friday on a high note, propelled by the GDP figures.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.31% to 26,543.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.34% to 8,146.40.

The S&P 500 gained 0.47% to 2,939.88, its second record closing high for the week.

Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, said that despite stronger-than-expected earnings helping to lift markets, he saw investors’ positioning on the S&P becoming “overly extended”.

“We have flipped from a state where it is a stock rally no one wants to take part in, to a frenzied paced splurge where hedge funds and investors alike continue to chase markets like greyhounds to the mechanical rabbit,” he said in a note.

While the strong US GDP data helped to ease fears of an imminent recession, investors noted that it was driven by a smaller trade deficit and a large accumulation of unsold merchandise, as consumer and business spending slowed sharply.

The March reading for core personal consumption expenditures (PCE), the Fed’s favoured inflation measure, is due later on Monday. The central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will announce its policy decision on Wednesday, with chairman Jerome Powell expected to balance the strong domestic growth data against persistent concerns over the global outlook.

Markets will also be looking to global factory activity surveys this week, particularly official and private readings on Chinese manufacturing that will both be released Tuesday.

Searching for stimulus

Chinese companies’ return to profit growth in March fuelled doubts over how much more stimulus Beijing can roll out without risking a rapid build-up in debt and potential asset bubbles.

“The hope that there will be more stimulus coming out from China probably is diminishing,” said Goh at DBS.

“So if the FOMC confirms that the Fed continues to be quite dovish about the outlook for interest rates, I think investors will quite like that,” she said.

With Japan on an extended break, currency markets were calm ahead of the FOMC meeting and US jobs numbers. The dollar was flat against the yen at 111.60, and the euro was up 0.05% to $1.1154.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, turned 0.03% lower to 97.981.

US crude dipped 0.5% at $62.98 a barrel, continuing lower after US President Donald Trump pressured Opec on Friday to raise crude production to ease petrol prices.

Brent crude fell 0.37% to $71.88 per barrel.

Spot gold was flat, trading at $1,285.78 per ounce.