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Asian Stocks in Defensive Mood as China Slowdown

HONG KONG, April 19 (Reuters) - Asian shares traded cautiously on Tuesday, with China's economic slowdown from COVID-19 lockdowns and the prospect of aggressive Federal Reserve monetary policy tightening keeping markets on edge.

Investors were also bracing for a barrage of earnings that will help them assess the impact of the Ukraine war and a spike in inflation on company financials. Netflix, Tesla and Johnson & Johnson are all to report this week.

Moscow has refocused its ground offensive in Ukraine's two eastern provinces but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to fight on.

European markets were set for a lower open with the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures losing 0.66%, German DAX futures falling 0.69% and FTSE futures down 0.01%. U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis , were up 0.31%.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.4%.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.56%, as strong commodity prices lifted mining and energy stocks, while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.8%.

China's blue-chip CSI300 index was 0.49% lower in afternoon trade while the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.09% after the authorities vowed to support the economy hit by the worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 2.16%, pressured by a slump in tech giants listed in the city amid China's latest regulatory crackdown on the sector.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) said on Friday it would cut the reserve requirement for all banks by 25 basis points (bps), releasing about 530 billion yuan ($83.25 billion) in long-term liquidity to cushion a slowdown.

Investors, however, felt the smaller-than-expected cut might not be enough to reverse a sharp slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy that could significantly affect global growth. 

China will also step up financial support for industries, firms and people affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, the central bank said on Monday. 

This came after data showed the country's economy slowed in March as consumption, real estate and exports were affected by COVID-19 curbs. 

Analysts said the key question was whether authorities would make adjustments to the tough anti-COVID-19 measures.

"We expect more policy support, mainly in the form of more infrastructure investment, stronger credit growth, and easier property policy. But we do not see the government undertake 'whatever it takes' to achieve the 5.5% growth target, nor shift the Covid policy soon," said Wang Tao, Head of Asia Economics and Chief China Economist of UBS Investment Bank Research.

Wall Street ended the day lower in a choppy trading day on Monday, as investors contrasted Bank of America's positive quarterly earnings with surging bond yields ahead of further earnings cues this week.

A significant cut to global growth expectations from the World Bank, paired with March weakness in China's latest economic numbers injected some pessimism into U.S. markets, which opened Monday following a holiday-shortened previous week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 0.11%, while the S&P 500 dipped 0.02% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.14%.

Oil prices stayed strong, as investors fretted over tight global supply after Libya was forced to halt some exports.

Brent crude rose to $113.28 per barrel. U.S. crude was down 0.18% at $108.01 a barrel.

"Libya's oil output disruption added a further bullish tinge to an already undersupplied market," ANZ analysts wrote in a note.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was last at 2.8472%, after previously hitting 2.884% earlier on Monday, the highest since December 2018. Markets are repricing on the expectation the Federal Reserve will raise rates by 50 basis points at its May and June meetings to contain rapid inflation.

The two-year yield , which rises with traders' expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 2.4358% compared with a U.S. close of 2.46%.

The dollar index , a gauge of the greenback's value against six major currencies, was up at 100.97 after surging to 100.86 on Monday, the highest since April 2020.

Gold prices steadied on Tuesday, after getting within a stone's throw of the key $2,000 per ounce level in the previous session.

Spot gold traded at $1,973.96 per ounce.

Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Source: Reuters

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