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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks advance amid optimism over China economic growth

Chinese insurers and banks pace gains

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan, led by Chinese companies, rose Tuesday amid bets that China's latest economic data would show better-than-expected growth momentum.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan rose 0.7% to 1,374.43. Chinese insurers and lenders were among the biggest contributors to the gauge's advance. Hong Kong-shares of China Construction Bank and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China rose 3.9% and 3.1%, respectively, while Ping An Insurance Group added 2.3%. New China Life Insurance advanced 1.7% after saying January-to-March gross premium income rose 9.5% from a year earlier. An index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, climbed 1.6%, while the Shanghai Composite closed 2.4% higher.

On Wednesday, China will report how its economy fared in the first quarter amid signs that growth is picking up. Upbeat exports data of March and better-than-expected readings on two manufacturing surveys have fueled optimism that growth in the world's second-largest economy would accelerate in the coming quarters.

"China has reported better PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index), exports, real estate and credit data, suggesting that 1Q GDP report may beat expectations," Morgan Stanley said in a note. A combination of easing trade tensions and signs of rebounding economic activity will maintain "investor risk friendliness for now," it added.

Worries over U.S.-China trade relations have ebbed amid positive comments from officials of both the countries. Just last weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that trade talks with China were nearing the final round, which followed earlier comments by President Donald Trump that suggested a deal was imminent.

In addition to the March quarter GDP data, China will report last month's retail sales, investment, and industrial output data. Economists polled by Reuters expect the Chinese economy to have grown by 6.3% in the last quarter.

In other movers on the A300 on Tuesday, Hon Hai Precision Industry advanced 0.7%. The company's founder and Chairman Terry Gou said earlier Tuesday that he will be stepping down from his day-to-day duties at the company.

Shares of mainland airlines dropped after March operational data. China Southern Airlines fell 0.7% after reporting a 4.1% increase in passengers carried last month, down from 10% in February. Air China declined 1.6% after a 1% year-on-year increase in passengers carried in March.

Singapore Airlines closed 0.3% lower. The airline said late Monday that total number of passengers carried in March was up 5.3% on-year at 3.11 million, while passenger load factor declined 1.4 percentage points to 81.5%.

China Vanke dropped 0.9% and China Overseas Land & Investment slipped 0.7%, pacing losses in mainland property developers. The nation's National Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday that new house prices in four first-tier cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou -- increased 0.2% month-on-month in March, down from the 0.3% pace in February, according to Xinhua News Agency.

--Nimesh Vora

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