Asian stock markets are advancing on Friday, extending gains from the previous session, as fears of a full-blown global trade war receded after U.S. President Donald Trump signed proclamations imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, but exempted Canada and Mexico.
Geopolitical tensions also eased following news that Trump has agreed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May. Investors now look ahead to the Bank of Japan's interest rate decision and the closely watched U.S. monthly jobs report due later in the day.
The Australian market is modestly higher. In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 27.90 points or 0.47 percent to 5,970.80, slightly off a high of 5,971.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 28.10 points or 0.46 percent to 6,074.70.
The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank - are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent.
Gold miner Evolution Mining is adding 0.3 percent and Newcrest Mining is up 0.2 percent even as gold prices slipped overnight.
Among the major miners, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals are declining 0.3 percent each, while Rio Tinto is down 0.4 percent.
Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices fell to a three-week low overnight. Oil Search is losing more than 1 percent, Santos is declining 0.6 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down 0.1 percent.
Shares of Myer Holdings are losing more than 4 percent after the struggling department store chain was removed from the Australian share market's benchmark ASX200 Index.
Oz Minerals is considering renewable energy options for its current and future assets in a bid to combat ongoing pressure from surging electricity prices and also prevent blackouts. The copper miner's shares are adding 0.3 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday following lower commodity prices. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7789, down from US$0.7826 on Thursday.
The Japanese market is sharply higher, extending gains from the previous session, while a weaker yen lifted exporters' shares.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan will wrap up its monetary policy meeting and announce its decision on interest rates later in the day. The central bank is widely expected to keep its benchmark lending rate unchanged at -0.1 percent.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 448.58 points or 2.10 percent to 21,816.65, off a high of 21,884.45 earlier.
The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is gaining almost 3 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is rising more than 2 percent, Sony is advancing almost 1 percent and Canon is up more than 1 percent. SoftBank is higher by almost 3 percent.
Among the major automakers, Toyota is advancing more than 1 percent and Honda is up 0.3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is higher by almost 2 percent.
Steel maker Japan Steel Works is rising more than 3 percent and Nippon Steel is adding almost 1 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is gaining almost 2 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is advancing more than 1 percent despite crude oil prices falling overnight.
Among the market's best performers, Sekisui House is gaining almost 6 percent, while Hitachi Construction Machinery, Denka Co. and Eisai Co. are all rising more than 4 percent each.
On the flip side, Kobe Steel is declining almost 2 percent and Takeda Pharmaceutical is down 0.6 percent.
On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that the M2 money stock in Japan was up 3.3 percent on year in February, coming in at 987.4 trillion yen. That was in line with expectations and down from 3.4 percent in January.
The M3 money stock gained an annual 2.8 percent to 1,316.0 trillion yen - again matching forecasts and down from 2.9 percent in the previous month.
Japan will also see January results for labor cash earnings and household spending today.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 106 yen-range on Friday.
On Wall Street, stocks closed firmly in positive territory in a volatile session on Thursday after President Donald Trump signed proclamations imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The choppy trading seen for much of the day came as traders looked ahead to the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed higher for the fifth consecutive session, climbing 31.30 points or 0.4 percent to 7,427.95. The Dow also rose 93.85 points or 0.4 percent to 24,895.21, and the S&P 500 advanced 12.17 points or 0.5 percent to 2,738.97.
The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.3 percent, the German DAX Index advanced by 0.9 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.6 percent.
Crude oil futures tumbled Thursday on expectations that the U.S. dollar will strengthen on rising interest rates. April WTI oil declined $1.03 or 1.7 percent to settle at $60.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest in three weeks.
by RTT Staff Writer
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