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Asian Markets Mostly Higher


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday, recovering from the sharp losses made in the previous session, as investors shrugged off the lackluster cues overnight from Wall Street and the fall in crude oil prices.

Nevertheless, investors are cautious on fears of violence in the Middle East following U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and on worries over a potential U.S. government shutdown.

The Australian market is rebounding. Strength in banking and oil stocks helped the market to recover from the previous session's losses.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 26.70 points or 0.45 percent to 5,972.40, off a high of 5,975.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 23.80 points or 0.39 percent to 6,053.70.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac - are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 1.4 percent.

Oil stocks are also gaining despite the nearly 3 percent fall in crude oil prices. Santos is advancing almost 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is up 0.3 percent and Oil Search is adding 0.4 percent.

The major miners are mostly higher. Rio Tinto is advancing almost 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is rising 0.2 percent, while BHP Billiton is down 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed. Newcrest Mining is edging up less than 0.1 percent, while Evolution Mining is down almost 1 percent after gold prices held near four-month lows overnight.

Yowie Group said it will further expand into the U.S. by quadrupling the number of Target stores stocking its treats and moving into 8,000 convenience stores. Shares of the Australian chocolate maker are gaining almost 18 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that Australia had a seasonally adjusted merchandise trade surplus of A$105 million in October. That was well shy of expectations for a surplus of A$1.4 billion, and it was down sharply from the A$1.745 billion surplus in September.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar continued to fall against the stronger U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7563, down from $0.7584 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is advancing, recovering from sharp losses made in the previous session, as a weaker yen boosted exporters' shares.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is rising 282.20 points or 1.27 percent to 22,459.24, off a high of 22,474.80 earlier.

The major exporters are advancing. Panasonic is adding 0.4 percent, Sony is advancing almost 0.5 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is rising 0.6 percent and Canon is higher by 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down 0.2 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding 0.6 percent. Among automakers, Toyota and Honda are higher by 1 percent each.

In the oil space, Inpex and Japan Petroleum are declining almost 1 percent each after crude oil prices fell nearly 3 percent overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Yamato Holdings is rising almost 4 percent, while Asahi Kasei, Suzuki Motor and Yamaha Corp are higher by more than 3 percent each.
On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing more than 5 percent and NTN Corp. is down almost 2 percent.

In economic news, Japan will see preliminary October figures for its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 112 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday as traders expressed uncertainty about the economic impact of the Republican tax reform plan. Concerns about the possibility of violence in the Middle East also weighed on the markets as President Donald Trump announced he is officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

While the Nasdaq rose 14.16 points or 0.2 percent to 6,776.38, the Dow dipped 39.73 points or 0.2 percent to 24,140.91 and the S&P 500 edged down 0.30 point or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,629.27.

The major European markets also turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line and the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures plunged Wednesday, extending recent losses after official data confirmed a huge build in U.S. gasoline supplies. WTI crude for January fell $1.66 or 2.9 percent to $55.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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