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Asian Markets Mostly Higher


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday following the overnight rally on Wall Street amid optimism about U.S.-China trade talks and as the surge in crude oil prices boosted energy stocks. Investor sentiment was boosted after U.S. President Donald Trump said he is open to extending a March 1 deadline to raise tariffs on Chinese products if the U.S. and China are close to reaching a trade deal.

The Australian market slipped into negative territory after opening higher following the gains on Wall Street, as investors digested mixed earnings results from local companies.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is down 19.40 points or 0.32 percent to 6,059.70, after rising to a high of 6,094.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is declining 12.70 points or 0.21 percent to 6,136.00. Australian stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are advancing in a range of 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is up 0.4 percent after its shares went ex-dividend.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent and BHP Group is adding 0.1 percent, while Rio Tinto is declining 0.2 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is up almost 1 percent, while Oil Search and Santos are adding more than 1 percent each after crude oil prices rose more than 1 percent overnight.

Gold miners are mixed even as gold prices rose modestly overnight. Newcrest Mining is rising more than 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is declining 1 percent.

Carsales.com reported an 82 percent fall in first-half profit following an impairment against its stake in Stratton Finance, while revenue grew 17 percent. The online vehicle marketplace's shares are losing more than 6 percent.

Bapcor reported a 4 percent increase in first-half profit, but said its full-year profit would be at the lower end of its prior guidance. Shares of the automotive parts provider are falling 9 percent.

Virgin Australia recorded a turnaround to profit in the first half of the year, but did not provide any outlook for the full year due to market uncertainty. The airline's shares are gaining more than 7 percent.

CSL recorded a nearly 7 percent increase in first-half profit and said it expects full-year profit to come in at the upper end of its guidance range. However, the pharmaceutical giant's shares are declining almost 2 percent.

Tabcorp said its first-half profit rose more than seven-fold, while revenues doubled as the company benefited from its 2017 merger with Tatts. However, the gambling giant's shares are declining more than 2 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see February results for the consumer confidence index from Westpac today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7103, up from $0.7081 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market extending gains from the previous session following the overnight rally on Wall Street amid optimism about U.S.-China trade talks. Tech and oil stocks are among the major gainers.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is advancing 275.15 points or 1.32 percent to 21,139.36, after touching a high of 20,173.81 earlier. The Japanese market closed notably higher on Tuesday.

The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric and Sony are rising almost 2 percent each, while Canon is adding 0.7 percent. Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is gaining more than 4 percent and Tokyo Electron is higher by more than 2 percent.

Shares of Japan Display are unchanged after the Kyodo news agency reported that the ailing Apple supplier plans to receive a bailout of up to 80 billion yen from a group of Chinese and Taiwanese companies.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is rising 0.4 percent and Honda is higher by more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is advancing almost 1 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is gaining more than 14 percent after the energy explorer raised its full-year profit outlook by 37 percent. Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 7 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Taiyo Yuden is rising almost 8 percent, SoftBank Group is higher by almost 5 percent and Nikon Corp. is advancing more than 4 percent.

On the flip side, Kuraray Co. is losing more than 6 percent, Yamaha Motor is declining more than 4 percent and Tokai Carbon is down almost 4 percent.

On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that producer prices in Japan were down 0.6 percent on month in January, unchanged from the December reading but well shy of expectations for a decline of 0.2 percent.

Export prices were down 2.5 percent on month and 3.3 percent on year, the bank said, while import prices sank 5.0 percent on month and 1.6 percent on year.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply higher on Tuesday amid optimism lawmakers will manage to avoid another government shutdown after negotiators reached a tentative agreement on border security. Optimism about the next round of U.S.-China trade talks taking place this week also contributed to the strength on Wall Street.

The Dow soared 372.65 points or 1.5 percent to 25,425.76, the Nasdaq jumped 106.71 points or 1.5 percent to 7,414.62 and the S&P 500 surged up 34.93 points or 1.3 percent to 2,744.73.

European markets also moved higher on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.8 percent and the German DAX Index jumped by 1 percent.

Crude oil prices surged higher on Tuesday on hopes OPEC-led production cuts and the U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela will help tighten crude supply in the global market. WTI crude for March ended up $0.69 or 1.3 percent at $53.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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