- ASX SPI 200 futures little changed at 7,124.00
- Dow Average up 0.2% to 33,800.76
- Aussie down 0.3% to 0.6411 per US$
- U.S. 10-year yield fell 8.2bps to 4.5706%
- Australia 3-year bond yield rose 1.4 bps to 3.94%
- Australia 10-year bond yield fell 2.8 bps to 4.43%
- Gold spot up 0.7% to $1,873.94
- Brent futures down 1.5% to $86.32/bbl
- 10:30: (AU) Australia to Sell A$1 Billion 63-Day Bills
- 10:30: (AU) Australia to Sell A$1 Billion 133-Day Bills
- 11:00: (AU) Oct. Consumer Inflation Expectation, prior 4.6%
Stocks extended their rebound from oversold levels as traders shrugged off a hotter-than-estimated inflation reading to focus on less hawkish comments from Federal Reserve speakers. Oil fell after an early-week surge.
The S&P 500 rose for a fourth straight session. Treasury 10-year yields dropped nine basis points to 4.56%. The dollar saw its longest losing streak since March.
Traders are now awaiting Thursday’s consumer price index, which will come out after data showed a measure of producer prices rose by more than forecast in September amid higher energy costs.
Journalist Cheng Lei has returned to Australia after her release from about three years of detention in China, in a major sign of diplomatic warming after years of tensions between the nations.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday he had spoken to Cheng in Melbourne, and she had been reunited with her two children.
“Her return brings an end to a very difficult few years for Cheng and her family,” Albanese said at a news conference, describing the journalist as “strong and resilient.” Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong met Cheng at the airport, he added.
China’s spy agency said later in the day that Cheng pleaded guilty to passing national secrets to an overseas institution and that she had been sentenced to two years and 11 months in jail for the crime — comments marking the first time Beijing has provided details on a verdict or sentencing in Cheng’s case, which involved a closed-door trial a year and a half ago.
The Ministry of State Security didn’t say what type of information or what institution was involved.
Cheng’s detention in 2020 happened at a time of worsening ties between Beijing and Canberra and came months after the government of then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus. Her arrest sparked fears that Beijing had targeted the mother of two to exert pressure on Canberra.
Relations between the countries have improved since the election of Albanese’s center-left Labor government in May 2022, including the restarting of high-level ministerial meetings and the ending of several export restrictions by Beijing. Australian companies are once again shipping coal to China and the two countries announced a deal aimed at eliminating China’s tariffs on barley.
“Every single Australian politician from the prime minister down, every diplomat, every scholarly or business intermediary who’s met with the Chinese in recent years, has raised Cheng Lei’s case and made it clear that the two countries’ relationship wouldn’t be back on a really solid footing until it was resolved,” said Richard McGregor, senior fellow for East Asia at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
“The timing is pretty obviously related to the prime minister’s visit and and an effort by the Chinese to put it on a solid foundation,” said McGregor, who serves on a panel advising Wong on China. He also traveled to Beijing last month to participate in the Australia-China high-level dialogue.
Albanese plans to visit Beijing this year. That trip will probably come in the first half of November, said Richard Maude, the former head of an Australian intelligence agency and now executive director for policy at the Asia Society.
The Chinese have made a series of requests of Australia to improve relations, including that Canberra remove anti-dumping tariffs on steel products, support China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and approve more Chinese investment.
“China would also like Australia to step back from the very active part it’s taking in building what the Americans call the ‘fabric of military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,’” said Maude. “China would like Australia to see it not as an adversary but a partner.”
Cheng was first detained in China in 2020 on espionage charges and then formally arrested in early 2021 after authorities concluded she “conducted illegal activities on supplying state secrets overseas.” She was tried last year but the court deferred issuing a verdict.
Under China’s opaque legal system, authorities can hold someone indefinitely without releasing information. Chinese diplomats have said the trial needed to be closed because it involved state secrets. They also urged Australia to respect their nation’s “judicial sovereignty.”
China’s spy agency, which has taken on a more high profile as Chinese President Xi Jinping has placed greater focus on security issues over his decade in power, said in a social media post Wednesday that Cheng was expelled from the nation.
It added: “In May 2020, Cheng Lei was contacted by personnel from a certain overseas institution and she violated the confidentiality clause signed with her employer, illegally providing national secret acquired through her work to the overseas institution via her mobile phone.”
Cheng hosted business shows on Chinese state media from 2012 and was well known among Beijing’s circle of diplomats and journalists. She previously worked as China correspondent for CNBC after graduating from the University of Queensland with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and serving as an accountant at Cadbury Schweppes, according to a LinkedIn profile that is no longer online.
She was among several foreign nationals from countries with fraught political ties with Beijing who were detained in recent years. Fellow Australian writer Yang Hengjun remains in jail in China, with Albanese saying his government was continuing to advocate for his release. Yang was taken into custody by Chinese authorities in 2019 and recently wrote to relatives and friends that he had fallen ill in prison.
China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in late 2018, just days after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., was detained in Canada in response to a US extradition request. The two were released in September 2021 after Meng was allowed to leave Canada. A report by the official Xinhua News Agency said Chinese courts freed them on medical bail.
Although China-Australia relations are warming, a number of difficult issues remain, including recent trip to Taiwan by Australian politicians. On Wednesday, China expressed its disapproval over an ongoing visit by Morrison to the island that China has vowed to bring under its control, by force if necessary.
The visit was a “serious concern” and China hoped Australia’s politicians would be “sensitive” to Beijing’s views, Ambassador Xiao Qian said Wednesday during an event in Melbourne.
Still, Australia’s former ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, expressed optimism that ties between China and Australia can return to a “more normal relationship” given Cheng’s release and the resolving of the remaining trade issues.