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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday, though gains are modest, as investors digested weaker than expected economic data from China and looked ahead to the release of U.S. inflation data later in the day.

A raft of Chinese data released on Thursday showed that the country's August industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales, all rose less than expected.

The Australian market is declining, tracking the modest gains on Wall Street and weakness in base metal prices. Investors shrugged off data that showed Australia's unemployment rate in August was in line with expectations.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 8.20 points or 0.14 percent to 5,736.10, off a low of 5,726.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 4.80 points or 0.08 percent to 5,799.20.

Among miners, BHP Billiton is losing almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is down more than 1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is edging up less than 0.1 percent after base metals prices declined overnight.

South32 has reiterated its support for a carbon pricing mechanism, saying it is effective to reduce carbon emissions. The miner's shares are down more than 2 percent.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices slipped overnight. Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is down 1 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.8 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher after crude oil prices rose. Santos is adding more than 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are up almost 1 percent each.

Macquarie Atlas Roads Group said it aims to raise A$450 million from investors to help fund the expansion of its stake in a French motorway network. The company's shares are losing almost 3 percent.

Myer Holdings reported a nearly 2 percent decline in underlying profit for the full year and said it will close a further three stores. Statutory profit for the year fell 80 percent. However, the department store giant's shares are rising 2 percent.

Vocus Group's shares are adding 0.6 percent despite law firm Slater and Gordon saying that a proposed class action would be brought against the company for allegedly engaging in "misleading and deceptive conduct" and breaching disclosure obligations.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia held steady at a seasonally adjusted 5.6 percent in August. That was in line with expectations and unchanged from the July reading.

The Australian economy added 54,200 jobs to 12,269,000 in August, beating forecasts for an addition of 20,000 jobs following the addition of 27,900 jobs in the previous month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar, which strengthened amid talks that the U.S. tax reform guidance is likely to be released before the end of September. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7984, down from US$0.8028 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market recovered after a weak start and is edging higher. In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 7.80 points or 0.04 percent to 19,873.62, after touching a low of 19,845.88 earlier.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Panasonic is advancing more than 1 percent and Canon is up 0.2 percent, while Sony is losing 3 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.2 percent.

Toshiba said it has decided to sign a memorandum of understanding with a consortium led by U.S. investment fund Bain Capital to negotiate the sale of its flash memory unit, Toshiba Memory Corp. However, shares of Toshiba are losing more than 2 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is adding 0.2 percent and Honda is flat. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are up 0.2 percent each.

In the oil space, Inpex and Japan Petroleum Exploration are rising more than 1 percent each on higher crude oil prices.

Among the best performers, Toray Industries is rising almost 4 percent, while Sumco Corp. and Ube Industries are advancing more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Nisshinbo Holdings is losing almost 5 percent, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is down 4 percent and Toho Zinc is lower by more than 3 percent.

On the economic front, Japan will release final July figures for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and Indonesia are all modestly higher, while Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher in choppy trading on Wednesday as traders stuck to the sidelines ahead of the release of some key economic data over the next couple of days. Traders also kept an eye on Washington, where House Speaker Paul Ryan revealed Republicans will release an outline of their tax reform plan the week of September 25.

The Dow rose 39.32 points or 0.2 percent to 22,158.18, the Nasdaq inched up 5.91 points or 0.1 percent to 6,460.19 and the S&P 500 edged up 1.89 points or 0.1 percent to 2,498.37.

The major European markets ended mixed on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday. WTI crude oil for October delivery jumped $1.07 or 2.2 percent to $49.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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