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Asian Markets Extend Gains


Asian stock markets are higher on Thursday, extending gains from the previous session, following the positive lead overnight from Wall Street. Optimism about U.S.-China trade relations and news that British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote by the Conservative Party boosted investor sentiment.

The Australian market is modestly higher, recovering after a weak start. Telecom stocks are falling after the Australian competition watchdog raised concerns about the planned merger between Vodafone Australia and TPG Telecom.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 14.90 points or 0.26 percent to 5,668.40, after touching a low of 5,636.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 14.20 points or 0.25 percent to 5,741.50. Australian stocks gained more than 1 percent on Wednesday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or ACCC, the competition watchdog, has raised concerns that the planned merger of Vodafone Australia and TPG Telecom could mean higher mobile prices for consumers. Shares of TPG Telecom are losing more than 14 percent, while shares of Hutchison Telecom, which owns a 50 percent stake in Vodafone Australia, are falling more than 21 percent.

Among others in the telecom sector, Telstra is declining more than 2 percent and Vocus Group is down 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are advancing on higher iron ore prices. BHP and Rio are adding more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is up 0.6 percent.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are rising in a range of 0.2 percent to 1.2 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices dipped 1 percent overnight. Oil Search is declining 0.5 percent, Santos is down 0.4 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are also weak despite an increase in gold prices overnight. Evolution Mining is down 0.5 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by almost 1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see December results for its consumer price forecast today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is edging higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.9 up from $0.7213 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is extending gains from the previous session. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 125.79 points or 0.58 percent to 21,728.54, after rising to a high of 21,776.98 earlier. Japanese shares rallied sharply on widespread buying.

The major exporters are mixed on a slightly stronger yen. Panasonic is advancing more than 1 percent and Canon is up almost 1 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is declining 0.6 percent and Sony is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is advancing more than 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.4 percent.

Among the major automakers, Honda is rising more than 1 percent, while Toyota is down 0.1 percent. Toyota is recalling about 70,000 Toyota and Lexus brand vehicles in North America to replace air bag inflators.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are adding almost 1 percent each.

In the oil space, Inpex is higher by 0.3 percent and Japan Petroleum is advancing 0.6 percent despite lower crude oil prices overnight.

Oil refiners Idemitsu Kosan Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. said that their planned merger has received approval by all relevant antitrust authorities at home and abroad, bringing them a step closer to consolidation on April 1. Shares of Idemitsu Kosan are adding almost 1 percent, while Showa Shell's shares are higher by 0.7 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Takeda Pharmaceutical is rising almost 7 percent, while Fuji Electric and Minebea Mitsumi are gaining more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Showa Denko is losing 7 percent and Oki Electric is down 6 percent. Tokai Carbon and Chubu Electric are lower by more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will provide November figures for office vacancies in Tokyo today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 113 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai and Hong Kong are advancing more than 1 percent each, while South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan are also higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism about striking a trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

The Dow climbed 157.03 points or 0.6 percent to 24,527.27, the Nasdaq jumped 66.48 points or 1 percent to 7,098.31 and the S&P 500 rose 14.29 points or 0.5 percent to 2,651.07.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index soared by 2.2 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index surged up by 1.4 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices ended lower on Wednesday after rising earlier in the session. WTI crude for January delivery declined $0.50 or 1 percent to close at 51.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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