Asian stocks climbed on Wednesday as Japanese shares rallied, while Chinese stocks pared losses. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 1.7 percent with Japan’s Topix index surging 3 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to its lowest level since December 2014 after sliding as much as 4 percent earlier in the session. The Chinese gauge has dropped 23 percent thus far in January, and is down 47 percent from its recent peak reached last June. Elsewhere in the region, benchmarks indexes in Hong Kong and South Korea gained at least 1 percent.
Oil prices soared on Wednesday after U.S. data showed a surprise spike in demand for refined crude products last week and Russia said that possible oil output cuts were discussed with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Brent, the global benchmark, jumped 5 percent to $33.40 a barrel in afternoon trading, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the U.S. benchmark, gained 4 percent to $32.74 a barrel.
U.S. sales of new single-family homes jumped 10.8 percent (m/m, sa) in December, reaching 544,000 and ahead of expectations. The median price of new homes sold in December dipped to $288,900, compared with $297,000 in November. For 2015 as a whole, new home sales were 14.5 percent higher than a year earlier.
Consumer confidence in France improved at the start of 2016, with the INSEE index increasing to 97 in January, compared with 96 the previous month. The result was ahead of expectations and reflects a pick-up in standard of living expectations and a reduction in fears of unemployment.
Business confidence among small and medium enterprises in Japan dipped in January, with a reading in pessimistic territory at 47.2 on the monthly Shoko Chukin Bank survey of 1,000 companies. The result was the lowest level in seven months, as businesses face headwinds from weak demand.
Emerging and Frontier Economies
East Asia and Pacific
The Philippines economy grew an upwardly revised 6.1 percent (y/y) in Q3, following a 5.8 percent expansion in Q2. The top three contributors to the upward revision were: trade and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, personal and household goods; transportation, storage, and communication; and construction.
Vietnam’s industrial production rose an estimated 5.9 percent in January (y/y), slowing from a downwardly revised 8.1 percent in December 2015. It is the lowest figure since March 2014, as mining output fell, and processing production rose. For the whole year of 2015, industrial production was estimated to have grown by 9.8 percent, as compared to a 7.4 percent increase in 2014.
Europe and Central Asia
According to preliminary estimates, the Russian economy shrank 3.8 percent (y/y) in Q4, following a 4.1 percent contraction in Q3. It is the worst performance since 2009, as sanctions and lower oil prices hurt external trade and public revenues. In 2015, the GDP contracted 3.7 percent, according to figures from the Federal Statistics Service.
Nigeria’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 11 percent, as widely expected, following an unexpected cut by 200bps at its November meeting in order to boost growth. The bank also held the cash reserve ratio for commercial banks at 20 percent.