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Asian Markets Mostly Higher After Wall Street Rebound

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday, attempting to recover from the sharp losses recorded last week, following the rally on Wall Street and as oil prices rebounded in Asian trades after falling on Friday. Nevertheless, investors braced for volatility amid lingering concerns about the outlook for interest rates. The Japanese market is closed for a public holiday.

The Australian market is declining despite the rally on Wall Street, as weak gold and oil prices weighed on resources stocks. Investors are also cautious as they digested earnings results of major local companies.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 31.20 points or 0.53 percent to 5,806.80, off a low of 5,791.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 31.90 points or 0.54 percent to 5,905.60. Australian shares lost ground on Friday following the weak cues from Wall Street and other regional markets.

In the oil sector, Santos and Woodside Petroleum are losing more than 1 percent each, while Oil Search is declining almost 2 percent after crude oil prices fell on Friday and entered correction mode.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 0.7 percent to 1.1 percent.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is declining more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is losing more than 2 percent after gold prices edged lower on Friday.

Bucking the trend, the major miners are mostly higher. Rio Tinto is rising 0.6 percent and BHP Billiton is adding 0.7 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down more than 1 percent.

Aurizon Holdings reported a 52 percent increase in profit for the first half compared to last year, when results were weighed by impairments and one-off items. The rail freight operator's shares are rising more than 3 percent.

Shares of Amcor are advancing more than 1 percent after the global packaging company reported a 15 percent increase in its half-year profit.

JB Hi-Fi said its first-half profit grew 37 percent and revenue rose 41 percent after a health performance in the Christmas period. However, the home electronics and entertainment retailer's shares are losing almost 8 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see December data for credit card purchases and balances today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar rebounded above the $0.78 level on Monday. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7815, up from US$0.7776 on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai and New Zealand are also edging lower, while South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are all higher. The markets in Japan are closed on Monday for the National Foundation Day holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed notably higher on Friday in a volatile session, partly due to bargain hunting after the steep losses seen in the previous session. Traders may also have reacted positively to news that lawmakers managed to end a brief government shutdown with a bill raising spending caps and funding the government until March 23rd.

The Dow surged up 330.44 points or 1.4 percent to 24,190.90, the Nasdaq jumped 97.33 points or 1.4 percent to 6,874.49 and the S&P 500 shot up 38.55 points 1.5 percent to 2,619.55.

The major European markets showed notable moves to the downside on Friday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slumped 1.1 percent, while the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures plunged Friday, entering correction mode along with U.S. stocks. March WTI oil fell $1.95 or 3.2 percent to settle at $59.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since December 22.

by RTT Staff Writer

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