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Asian Stocks End Mixed; China Reports First Positive Retail Sales in 2020

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mostly higher on Tuesday as investors watched China’s August economic data released earlier in the day.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged higher by their close, with the Shanghai composite up 0.51% to about 3,295.68 while the Shenzhen component advanced 0.933% to around 13,143.46. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.32%, as of its final hour of trading.

South Korea’s Kospi finished its trading day 0.65% higher at 2,443.58. In Southeast Asia, the Straits Times index in Singapore advanced 0.64%.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed fractionally lower at 5,894.80. The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday released minutes from its September meeting, where members noted that “the downturn had not been as severe as earlier expected and a recovery was under way in most of Australia.”

Following the release of the minutes, the Australian dollar traded at $0.7315, as compared to an earlier low of $0.7265.

Japanese stocks also declined on the day, as the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.44% to 23,454.89 while the Topix index shed 0.62% to 1,640.84. Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 0.46%.

Retail sales in China rose 0.5% in August from a year ago — the first positive report for the year so far — according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Still, retail sales for the first eight months of the year were down 8.6% from a year ago, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, industrial production in the country grew 5.6% in August from a year ago while fixed-asset investment declined 0.3% for the first eight months of the year.

“We think that China’s economic recovery is on a reasonably firm footing now and should continue through Q4 and into 2021,” economists at Oxford Economics wrote in a note.

The onshore Chinese yuan strengthened to 6.7833 per dollar following the release of those data, as compared to an earlier low of 6.808 against the greenback. Its offshore counterpart traded at 6.7826 per dollar.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.918 after an earlier high of 93.1.

The Japanese yen changed hands at 105.72 per dollar after strengthening sharply yesterday from levels above 105.9 against the greenback.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 0.3% to $39.49 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also shed 0.21% to $37.18 per barrel.