Asia stocks cap fifth month of gains on China relief; sterling slips | Reuters

By Saikat Chatterjee
| HONG KONG

HONG KONG Asian stocks held steady on Wednesday, capping a fifth consecutive month of gains as data showed China’s factory activity grew at a steady clip this month, reassuring investors worried about a slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was broadly flat on Wednesday as Chinese stocks .SSEC .SZSC ran out of steam after an early run higher.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 edged 0.3 percent lower.

Stock index futures in Europe were pointing to a slightly firmer start.

“The market remains positive and the favorable PMI data reinforces the trend, though investors should be careful of chasing markets higher as liquidity conditions can change quickly,” said Alex Wong, a fund manager at Ample Capital Ltd in Hong Kong, with about $130 million under management.

Activity in China’s manufacturing sector grew at the same pace in May as in April, with a headline reading of 51.2, official data showed, in a reassuring sign the world’s second-biggest economy is not losing too much steam after a solid first quarter performance.

Analysts had seen a slight slowing to 51.0.

Growth in China’s steel industry rebounded to the strongest level in a year, supported by an increase in new orders, according to an industry survey, buoying prices of iron ore and steel rebar futures in Shanghai.

In a further vote of confidence, Moody’s Investors Services said the improving outlook for global growth in 2017 appeared sustainable as some of the biggest risks to the developed economies seem to have subsided.

Despite signs of improvement in the global economy, investors are wary of chasing markets higher with stock trading volumes on the mainland and Hong Kong trending lower in recent days, signaling diminishing investor confidence.

On a price-to-earnings basis, Hong Kong is now valued in line with its 20-year average while the…

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