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Asian Markets Mostly Higher


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday after U.S. stocks closed at record highs on Friday despite weaker than expected jobs data for December 2017 and a fall in crude oil prices. Investors are also optimistic about strong earnings results from regional companies later this week. The Japanese market is closed for the "Coming of Age" holiday.

The Australian market is advancing after U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 13.40 points or 0.22 percent to 6,135.70, off a high of 6,143.00. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 14.30 points or 0.23 percent to 6,244.00.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.

In the oil space, Santos is adding 0.3 percent and Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent, while Oil Search is unchanged after crude oil prices declined on Friday.

Meanwhile, in the mining space, Fortescue Metals is losing 0.5 percent, Rio Tinto is declining 0.4 percent and BHP Billiton is down 0.2 percent even as iron ore prices climbed higher.

Gold miners are also weak, despite gold prices rising for a tenth day on Friday. Newcrest Mining is losing more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is falling more than 3 percent.

Suncorp Group has projected the financial impact of Melbourne's December hailstorm on its first-half results to be between A$160 million and A$170 million, as it expects to receive more than 21,000 insurance claims related to Melbourne's December hailstorm. The insurance giant's shares are lower by more than 1 percent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the construction sector in Australia continued to expand in December, although at a much slower rate, with a Performance of Construction Index score of 52.8.

That's down sharply from 57.5 in November, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction for the 11th consecutive month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar rose against the U.S. dollar, which remained at a three-month low on Monday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7862, up from US$0.7848 on Friday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs on Friday despite a report from the Labor Department showing weaker than expected job growth in the month of December. Traders largely shrugged off the report, as analysts suggested that recent data pointed to overall strength in the labor market.

The Dow advanced 220.74 points or 0.9 percent to 25,295.87, the Nasdaq climbed 58.64 points or 0.8 percent to 7,136.56 and the S&P 500 rose 19.16 points or 0.7 percent to 2,743.15.

The major European markets also moved higher on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index jumped by 1.1 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices fell on Friday, slipping from a three-year closing high in the previous session. WTI crude futures fell $0.57 to $61.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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