China shares eke out gains as most Asia markets slip

China shares eked out gains Tuesday even as most Asian markets retraced some of their recent rally, with traders digesting weaker-than-expected trade data from the mainland.

Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG, told CNBC a lot of the recent rally in stocks has been “driven by a major reversal (or short covering) in financials, materials and energy.” But, he said, momentum, which had been declining in other sectors already, is now falling in these sectors as well.

China’s trade data, released around 10:30 a.m. SIN/HK time, also wasn’t positive for sentiment, with February exports falling 25.4 percent in U.S. dollar terms, while imports fell 13.8 percent, with both declines wider than expectations. The drop in exports was the largest on-year drop since 2009, according to Reuters.

Chinese markets ended higher, with the Shanghai composite closing up 2.57 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,899.91 and the Shenzhen composite up 8.89 points, or 0.51 percent, at 1,750.53.

Nicholson noted that China’s foreign exchange reserves data released overnight is unlikely to have “totally reassured markets around the prospects for further yuan devaluation.”

On Monday, official data released after the market close showed foreign currency reserves on the mainland fell to $3.2 trillion at the end of February, dropping from $3.23 trillion the previous month, marking the fourth straight month of declines, although the pace of outflows slowed substantially. The February figure was in line with analysts’ expectations shown in a Reuters poll.

Among other markets, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 128.17 points, or 0.76 percent, at 16,783.15, extending Monday’s 0.6 percent drop.

Before the market open, Reuters reported revised government data showed Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized 1.1 percent in the final quarter of 2015. This was revised up from a preliminary reading of a 1.4 percent contraction.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed down 11.75 points, or 0.60 percent, at 1,946.12. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index closed down 148.14 points, or 0.73 percent, to 20,011.58.

The SP/ASX 200, Australia’s benchmark index, ended down 34.85 points, or 0.68 percent, at 5107.96, dragged by losses in the energy, materials and financials sectors. The sectors were down 1.11, 0.82 and 1.02 percent, respectively.

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