A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Tom Westbrook

The first trading day for most major markets in Asia was a choppy one, as investors grappled with the contradictory implications of China’s opening up and a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. European and U.S. futures struggled to make headway.

Surveys out over the weekend showed China’s factory activity in December shrank at the sharpest pace in nearly three years as COVID infections swept through production lines. Tuesday Caxin figures also showed shrinking activity.

A dangerous few weeks now loom as restrictions fall away and infections spread ahead of the Lunar New Year, when an expected 5.5 million railway passenger journeys will reunite families and potentially carry COVID to most corners of the country.

About 9,000 people in China are probably dying each day from COVID, health data firm Airfinity said last week.

Still, as trading progressed on Tuesday morning, traders appeared to be weighing longer-run prospects for the world’s second-largest economy after the worst of the COVID waves had passed.

The Chinese yuan rose to a four-month high and stocks in Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai shook off early losses.

The dollar fell, pushing gold to a six-month high, while the yen also jumped as 2023 shapes up as a year for policy shifts from the Bank of Japan. Tuesday’s calendar is quiet, but Federal Reserve minutes and U.S. jobs data later in the week will set the early tone for New Year thinking on interest rates.

GRAPHIC: China economic surprises (https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lgvdkkzddpo/ChinaEconSurprises.jpg)

Key developments that could influence markets on Tuesday:

– U.S. manufacturing PMI (December)

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Edmund Klamann)