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Asian Markets Higher After ECB Comments

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Asian stock markets are higher on Thursday following the overnight gains on Wall Street after the European Central Bank indicated it will discuss ending its bond purchasing program at a meeting next week. Receding worries about a full-blown global trade war also boosted investor sentiment.

The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session following the positive lead from Wall Street and as higher iron ore prices boosted mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 32.20 points or 0.53 percent to 6,057.30, just off a high of 6,057.70. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 31.70 points or 0.52 percent to 6,169.10.

Among the major miners, BHP Billiton is advancing 2 percent, Rio Tinto is rising more than 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is adding 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Evolution Mining is rising 0.6 percent, while Newcrest Mining is down almost 1 percent.

In the banking space, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is edging down less than 0.1 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher despite a more than 1 percent fall in crude oil prices. Santos is higher by more than 2 percent and Woodside Petroleum is up more than 1 percent, while Oil Search is declining 1 percent.

Inghams Group chief executive Mick McMahon will step down in August after four years at the helm, and will be replaced on an interim basis by chief commercial officer Quinton Hildebrand. The poultry producer's shares are tumbling more than 9 percent.

AMP has been hit with a fourth shareholder class action lawsuit over the scandals disclosed at the banking royal commission. The wealth management company's shares are losing 2 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed that the construction sector in Australia continued to expand in May, albeit at a slower pace, with a Performance of Construction Index score of 54.0. That's down from 55.4, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Australia will also release April figures for its imports, exports and trade balance today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar extended its rally against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was trading at US$0.76369, up from US$0.7654 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is rising, with investor sentiment bolstered by the gains on Wall Street after the European Central Bank indicated it will discuss ending its bond purchasing program at a meeting next week.

.In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 211.74 points or 0.94 percent to 22,837.47, just off a high of 22,839.41 earlier. Japanese shares touched a two-week high in the previous session.

Among the major exporters, Panasonic is rising almost 3 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is adding more than 1 percent and Canon is up 0.5 percent, while Sony is losing 1 percent.

Automaker Toyota is rising almost 2 percent and Honda is adding 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is gaining almost 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up more than 1 percent.

Honda Aircraft said it has begun accepting orders for its private business jet HondaJet from domestic customers and will start delivering the jets in Japan early next year. Honda Motor's shares are rising more than 1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is declining 0.5 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is losing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Shiseido Co. is rising more than 6 percent, while Pacific Metals, Showa Denko and Sumitomo Metal Mining are rising more than 3 percent each. On the flip side, Maruha Nichiro is losing more than 2 percent.

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

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 110 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, financial stocks helped to lead an upward move on Wednesday amid a pullback by U.S. treasuries after European Central Bank chief economist Peter Praet indicated the ECB will discuss ending its bond purchasing program at a meeting next week.

The Dow soared 346.41 points or 1.4 percent to 25,146.39, the Nasdaq climbed 51.38 points or 0.7 percent to 7,689.24 and the S&P 500 advanced 23.55 points or 0.9 percent to 2,772.35.

The major European markets turned in another mixed performance on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both rose by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures declined Wednesday as U.S. oil inventories unexpectedly rose. July WTI oil settled at $64.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $0.79 or 1.2 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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