Market Talk – Thursday, March 25

ASIA:

Chinese state TV called Thursday for a boycott of H&M as Beijing lashed out at foreign clothing and footwear brands following Western sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. The ruling Communist Party criticized H&M for saying in March 2020 it would stop buying cotton from the northwestern Chinese region. The Swedish retailer joined other brands in expressing concern about reports of forced labor there. The party also criticized statements by Burberry, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, and Zara about Xinjiang as early as two years ago. A loss of sales in China, the only major economy where consumer spending has rebounded to above pre-pandemic levels, can be especially painful at a time when U.S. and European demand is weak.

India’s competition watchdog on Wednesday ordered a probe into a WhatsApp privacy policy update, saying the Facebook Inc-owned messaging service had breached antitrust laws. The update announced in January, which will take effect in May, allows WhatsApp to share some user data with Facebook and its units, prompting a global backlash including in India, its biggest market with more than 500 million users. The antitrust order came as WhatsApp is expanding its digital payment services to millions of Indians. WhatsApp responded in a statement it would engage with the commission, noting the company’s commitment to protecting encryption and providing transparency on how the new business features work.

Singapore’s economy has been ranked the freest in the world this year in the Heritage Foundation’s 2021 Index of Economic Freedom, the second year in a row it topped the list. The Republic scored 89.7 points, with its overall score having increased by 0.3 points from 2020, primarily because of an improvement in points gained for government spending, the survey said. Singapore’s score placed it far ahead of both the regional average for 40 countries in the Asia Pacific (60.2) and the world average (61.6).

The major Asian stock markets had a mixed day today:

  • NIKKEI 225 increased 324.36 points or 1.14% to 28,729.88
  • Shanghai decreased 3.47 points or -0.10% to 3,363.59
  • Hang Seng decreased 18.53 points or -0.07% to 27,899.61
  • ASX 200 increased 11.80 points or 0.17% to 6,790.60
  • Kospi increased 11.98 points or 0.40% to 3,008.33
  • SENSEX decreased 740.19 points or -1.51% to 48,440.12
  • Nifty50 decreased 224.50 points or -1.54% to 14,324.90
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