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Japanese Market Modestly Higher

The Japanese stock market is modestly higher on Thursday in choppy trade following the positive cues from Wall Street amid optimism about U.S.-China trade talks, and on a weaker yen. Investors also digested data that showed Japan's economy returned to growth in the fourth quarter, though it missed estimates.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 35.27 points or 0.17 percent to 21,179.75, after touching a low of 21,102.16 earlier. Japanese shares rose sharply to hit a nearly two-month high on Wednesday.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Sony is adding almost 1 percent, Panasonic is rising 0.3 percent and Canon is up 0.2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.2 percent.

Shares of Toshiba are down 0.3 percent after the conglomerate reported an increase in profit for the nine-month period, but lowered its earnings outlook for the full year.

In the tech sector, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are higher by more than 1 percent each.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is rising 0.2 percent and Honda is higher by more than 1 percent. In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.3 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is losing more than 2 percent, while Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Citizen Watch is rising more than 5 percent, while Ebara, Shimizu, Kajima and JGC Corp. are all higher by more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing more than 7 percent, Pacific Metals is declining more than 6 percent and Sapporo Holdings is lower by more than 4 percent.

On the economic front, the Cabinet Office said that Japan's gross domestic product expanded a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2018. That was shy of expectations for a gain of 0.4 percent following the 0.6 percent contraction in the three months prior.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Wednesday in volatile trade, partly reflecting optimism about avoiding another government shutdown, as President Donald Trump said he was "not happy" with a tentative deal reached by lawmakers but did not specifically reject the proposal. The markets also benefited from continued optimism about U.S.-China trade talks after Trump indicated he is willing to delay raising tariffs on Chinese goods if the two sides are close to a deal.

The Dow climbed 117.51 points or 0.5 percent to 25,543.27, the Nasdaq inched up 5.76 points or 0.1 percent to 7,420.38 and the S&P 500 rose 8.30 points or 0.3 percent to 2,753.03.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday after top exporter Saudi Arabia promised deeper crude output cuts and industry data showed a decline in U.S. oil inventories. WTI crude for March delivery advanced $0.80 or 1.5 percent to close at $53.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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