Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are trading mostly higher on Thursday, following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street amidst a lack of strong catalysts. Investors seem reluctant to make significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent volatility. Asian markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

The Australian stock market is slightly lower on Thursday, retreating from record all-time highs and extending the losses of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying below the 7,300 level, as gains in mining and technology stocks were offset by weakness in energy and the financial sector. The cues overnight from Wall Street were mixed.

Investor are also concerned as some parts of New South Wales go under additional restrictions after local coronavirus infections grew by 16 cases overnight following NSW’s COVID outbreak. Authorities were mainly concerned about four infections that they had been unable to link to known cases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 14.40 points or 0.20 percent to 7,284.10, after hitting a low of 7,267.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 5.00 points or 0.07 percent to 7,547.10. Australian markets ended modestly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group, OZ Minerals and Rio Tinto are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals and Mineral Resources are adding more than 1 percent each.

Oil stocks are lower. Oil Search and Origin Energy are losing more than 1 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy and Santos are down almost 1 percent each.

Among Tech stocks, Appen and WiseTech Global are gaining more than 2 percent each, while Xero is losing almost 2 percent. Afterpay is adding more than 5 percent after announcing plans to let its U.S. users ‘buy now, pay later’ at 13 major non-partner U.S. merchants, including Target, CVS, Dell, Macy’s and Nike.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking are all losing almost 1 percent each. Westpac has decided it will not offload its New Zealand business, after a review found a demerger was not in the interests of shareholders.

Payments software firm Zeller plans to apply for a full Australian banking licence, which could dent the lending business of Australia’s Big Four banks.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices tumbled overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 1 percent and Northern Star Resources is down almost 3 percent, while Resolute Mining is edging up 0.4 percent. Gold Road Resources is also edging up 0.2 percent. Newcrest Mining is down almost 1 percent.

In other news, shares in Woolworths are plunging more than 12 percent after splitting from drinks behemoth Endeavour Group, which has listed as a separate entity. Endeavour is the owner of BWS and Dan Murphy’s.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.757 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is slightly higher after paring the early losses on Thursday, recouping the losses of the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 just above the 28,900 level, following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders remain upbeat following yesterday’s positive comments on the economy from the Bank of Japan.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,920.12, up 45.23 points or 0.16 percent, after hitting a low of 28,758.37 and a high of 28,935.34 earlier. Japanese shares ended slightly lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining more than 3 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is flat. Among automakers, Toyota is gaining almost 1 percent and Honda is adding almost 2 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 2 percent, while Screen Holdings is gaining almost 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.1 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial, Mizuho Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are gaining almost 1 percent each.

The major exporters are mixed. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 2 percent and Sony is edging down 0.3 percent, while Panasonic is gaining almost 1 percent. Canon is flat.

Among the other major gainers, Eisai is gaining 3.5 percent, while Mitsui Mining & Smelting and Alps Alpine are adding almost 3 percent each. Pacific Metals, Sumco, Nikon, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Subaru and Hino Motors are all up more than 2 percent each. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Fujikura and JFE Holdings are rising almost 2 percent each.

Conversely, Japan Exchange Group is losing more than 3 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down more than 2 percent, while Takara Holdings, Mitsubishi Estate, West Japan Railway, Ricoh are lower by almost 2 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 111 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore are all higher by between 0.3 and 0.4 percent each. New Zealand and Malaysia are lower 0.1 and 0.3 percent, respectively. China is flat.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday before eventually ending the session little changed. Despite the choppy trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq inched up to a new record closing high.

The major averages finished the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq crept up 18.47 points or 0.1 percent to 14,271.73, the Dow slipped 71.34 points or 0.2 percent to 33,874.24 and the S&P 500 edged down 4.60 points or 0.1 percent to 4,241.84.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index slumped 1.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid 0.9 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slipped 0.2 percent.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after data showed a larger than expected decline in U.S. crude inventories last week. However, the possibility of increased output from major oil producers limited oil’s surge. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for August ended up $0.23 or 0.3 percent at $73.08 a barrel.

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