By Kane Wu
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asian shares rebounded on Wednesday as investors pinned hopes on China eventually reopening its economy despite growing COVID lockdowns that pushed its factory and services sector activity deeper into contraction.
Europe and Wall Street were also set to open higher with FTSE futures and E-mini futures for the S&P 500 index up 0.35% and 0.15%, respectively, at 0518 GMT.
MSCI's broadest gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan reversed morning losses to gain 0.67%. At current levels, the index is set to post its biggest monthly gain since April 1999.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and China's benchmark CSI300 Index also bounced back, rising 0.82% and 0.1% respectively, as investors largely ignored an official survey that showed China's factory activity contracted at a faster-than-expected pace in November.
"Investors are looking beyond what happened in November. The impact on the economy from the recent supportive measures to the real economy including the property sector in China will gradually emerge," said Redmond Wong, Greater China market strategist at Saxo Markets in Hong Kong.
"Despite the surge in cases and recent protests, China has not hardened its COVID approach and is continuing to fine-tune its policy, which is encouraging to investors."
Chinese officials on Tuesday said the country would speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for elderly people.
The vaccination push was seen as crucial to unwinding nearly three years of strict curbs in the world's second-largest economy that have eroded economic growth, disrupted the lives of millions and sparked unprecedented protests this past weekend.
Most analysts, however, say reopening will be slow and bumpy, weighing heavily on the economy into 2023.
"Headlines from China regarding COVID restrictions and protests are causing jitters among investors. Although some COVID easing measures are being considered, it may not be enough to prevent further economic disruption," Anderson Alves, global macro analyst at ActivTrades, however cautioned in a Wednesday research note.
Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.41% while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed up 0.35%.
Globally investors are watching for guidance on the U.S. Federal Reserve's path of interest rate hikes.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak about the economy and labour market at a Brookings Institution event on Wednesday. A series of U.S. data concerning manufacturing, inflation and jobs will also be released this week.
"This week will offer an interesting test for markets as we have a look at the next important data macro data points out of the U.S., especially the PCE inflation data and the Friday November jobs report," said Wong of Saxo Markets.
The U.S. ISM manufacturing survey for the month on Thursday is also expected to slip into contraction, Wong said.
Oil prices posted gains of more than 1% in Asian trade on Wednesday on falling U.S. crude inventories and a lower greenback, but concerns OPEC+ will leave output unchanged at its upcoming meeting and weak China data limited gains.
Brent crude futures were up 1.05% to $83.90 per barrel by 0533 GMT, while U.S. crude futures climbed 1.14% to $79.09 a barrel.
Spot gold rose 0.25%.
In currency markets, the dollar index declined 0.27%.
(Reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast.)