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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian-Market-100912_11Jan18.jpg

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday, rebounding from the previous session's losses following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street amid easing worries about U.S. Treasuries and a rise in crude oil prices. Optimism about upbeat corporate earnings results also lifted investor sentiment.

The Australian market is rebounding, with mining stocks among the leading gainers.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 10.10 points or 0.17 percent to 6,077.70, off a high of 6,086.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 8.40 points or 0.14 percent to 6,184.60. Australian shares had closed lower for a second consecutive session on Thursday.

The major miners are higher despite a decline in iron ore prices. BHP Billiton is rising more than 2 percent, Rio Tinto is advancing 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is adding more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are also advancing after gold prices rose overnight for their highest settlement price since September. Newcrest Mining is adding 0.2 percent and Evolution Mining is advancing almost 2 percent.

Meanwhile, oil stocks are mostly weak despite the overnight surge in crude oil prices. Oil Search is losing almost 1 percent and Santos is declining more than 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent.

The big four banks are also mostly lower. ANZ Banking is down 0.4 percent, Commonwealth Bank is declining 0.3 percent and Westpac is edging down less than 0.1 percent, while National Australia Bank is rising 0.4 percent.

Incitec Pivot said its full-year profits during the four-year period from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2022 will incur one-off charges totaling A$81 million following the end of a contract to supply explosives to Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill Iron Ore mine. The company's shares are losing almost 4 percent.

In economic news, Australia will release November numbers for credit card purchases and balances.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar, extending gains from Thursday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7889, up from US$0.7874 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is modestly lower in choppy trade, with a stronger yen weighing on exporters' shares. Investors also digested downbeat Japanese economic data.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 36.01 points or 0.15 percent to 23,674.42, off a low of 23,643.55 earlier.

The major exporters are lower. Panasonic is declining almost 2 percent, Sony is lower by more than 1 percent, Canon is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.3 percent. SoftBank is lower by 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are down almost 1 percent each. Among automakers, Honda is lower by 1 percent and Toyota is declining 0.6 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is declining almost 2 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is lower by more than 1 percent.

Fast Retailing is gaining more than 5 percent following the announcement of upbeat earnings results on Thursday.

Among the market's best performers, Chiyoda Corp. is rising almost 5 percent, Pacific Metals is advancing more than 3 percent and Showa Denko is higher by more than 2 percent.

On the flip side, GS Yuasa is losing almost 5 percent, FamilyMart UNY is declining more than 4 percent and Tokyo Fudosan Holdings is lower by more than 3 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a current account surplus of 1.347 trillion yen in November - down 5.6 percent on year. That was shy of expectations for a surplus of 1.836 trillion yen and down from 2.176 trillion yen in October.

Japan's trade balance for November reflected a surplus of 181.0 billion yen, also missing forecasts for a surplus of 314.1 billion yen and down from 430.2 billion yen in the previous month.

The Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.5 percent on year in December, standing at 522.048 trillion yen. That's down from the 2.7 percent increase in November.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed notably higher on Thursday, partly due to easing concerns about treasuries after China dismissed a Bloomberg News report that officials have recommended slowing or halting purchases of U.S. debt. Traders largely shrugged off a report from the Labor Department showing another unexpected increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits.

The Dow jumped 205.60 points or 0.8 percent to 25,574.73, the Nasdaq advanced 58.21 points or 0.8 percent to 7,211.78 and the S&P 500 climbed 19.33 points or 0.7 percent to 2,767.56.

The major European markets ended mixed on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index slid by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil futures surged again Thursday, blasting through $64 a barrel as the dollar weakened versus major rivals. February WTI oil gained $0.23 or 0.4 percent to settle at $63.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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