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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday with modest gains, with energy stocks among the leading gainers following the surge in crude oil prices after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Oil prices further advanced in Asian trades.

The Australian market is advancing, led by gains in energy stocks after crude oil prices surged overnight following the U.S. exit from the Iran nuclear deal. Banks and mining stocks are also higher.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 19.60 points or 0.32 percent to 6,127.60, off a high of 6,145.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 20.50 points or 0.33 percent to 6,224.90.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are rising more than 3 percent each, while Origin Energy is adding 0.6 percent after crude oil prices rose 3 percent overnight.

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

The major miners are also higher on the back of rising base metal prices. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are rising almost 2 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is adding more than 1 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is down almost 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 1 percent.

Shares of AMP are declining almost 1 percent ahead of its annual general meeting later today. The embattled wealth management giant said it will "vigorously defend" two separate class action lawsuits brought against it after it's market value tumbled amid scandals disclosed at the banking royal commission.

Boral announced the sale of its non-core US Concrete & Quarries business to Brannan Sand and Gravel Company for $127 million and said it expects to make a pre-tax profit of $45 million on the sale. The building products maker's shares are rising more than 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday amid higher commodity prices. The local unit was trading at US$0.7461, up from US$0.7418 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market has pared initial gains and is modestly higher following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and the surge in crude oil prices. Investors are digesting a raft of local economic data. Energy stocks and automakers are among the major gainers.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is up 26.36 points or 0.12 percent to 22,435.24, after rising to a high of 22,530.64 in early trades.

In the oil space, Inpex is rising more than 3 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is up 0.4 percent after crude oil prices rose 3 percent overnight.

Among automakers, Toyota is rising more than 2 percent after the company reported an increase in its fiscal 2018 profit and announced a share buyback on Wednesday. Honda is adding 0.3 percent.

Among the major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is adding almost 1 percent, Panasonic is up 0.3 percent and Canon is edging higher by less than 0.1 percent. Sony is edging down 0.02 percent.

In the tech space, Alps Electric and Kyocera are adding more than 2 percent each, while Advantest is declining 0.5 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is gaining 0.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.7 percent.

Among the market's best performers, Mitsubishi Motors is rising 10 percent, Isetan Mitsukoshi is gaining almost 10 percent and IHI Corp. is advancing almost 6 percent.

On the flip side, Furukawa Electric is losing almost 10 percent, Japan Steel Works is declining 3 percent and Softbank Group is lower by more than 2 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a current account surplus of 3.122 trillion yen in March, up 4.2 percent on year. That beat expectations for a surplus of 2.899 trillion yen following the 2.076 trillion yen surplus in February.

Japan's trade balance reflected a surplus of 1.190 trillion yen, up an annual 37.6 percent. That also beat expectations for 1.023 trillion yen following the 188.7 billion yen surplus in the previous month.

Imports were down 0.9 percent on year to 6.257 trillion yen after surging 17.8 percent in February. Exports added an annual 3.7 percent to 7.447 trillion yen after gaining 0.9 percent a month earlier.

The Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.1 percent on year in April, coming in at 525.075 trillion yen. That exceeded expectations for a gain of 1.9 percent and was up from 2.0 percent in March.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 109 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is adding almost 1 percent, while Shanghai, South Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan are also higher. Singapore is modestly lower. The markets in Indonesia and Malaysia are closed for holidays.

On Wall Street, stocks closed firmly in positive territory on Wednesday, partly due to a sharp increase by the price of crude oil following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

The Dow advanced 182.19 points or 0.8 percent to 24,542.40, the Nasdaq jumped 73.00 points or 1 percent to 7,339.90 and the S&P 500 surged up 25.87 points or 1 percent to 2,697.79.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 1.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices continued to rally Wednesday amid geopolitical tensions and a significant drop in U.S. oil inventories. WTI crude for June delivery spiked $2.08 or 3 percent to $71.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since November 2014. In Asian trading, crude oil prices are further up 0.75 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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