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Asian Markets Mostly Lower


Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday as weak U.S. retail sales data raised worries about a slowdown in the world's largest economy. Retail sales in the U.S. unexpectedly showed a significant decrease in the month of December, according to government shutdown-delayed data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

Investors are also cautious following news that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to declare a national emergency to try to obtain more funds for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The Australian market is modestly higher following the mixed cues from Wall Street and as investors digested mixed corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 10.10 points or 0.17 percent to 6,069.50, after rising to a high of 6,071.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 12.80 points or 0.21 percent to 6,152.40. Australian stocks gave up early gains to end marginally lower on Thursday.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent, Santos is higher by 0.7 percent and Oil Search is adding 0.5 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

The big four banks are mixed. ANZ Banking is adding almost 1 percent and Commonwealth Bank is edging up 0.1 percent, while National Australia Bank and Westpac are down 0.1 percent each.

Gold miners are also mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Evolution Mining is rising more than 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is down 0.2 percent.

The major miners are weak. BHP Group is down 0.4 percent, Rio Tinto is lower by 0.3 percent and Fortescue Metals is declining 0.5 percent.

Whitehaven Coal reported a 19 percent increase in first-half profit, reflecting robust prices for higher grade thermal coal. However, the company's shares are losing 11 percent.

Medibank Private Ltd. reported a 15 percent decline in first-half profit, while its pre-tax profit was flat. The company also said it will consider acquiring a private health insurance business in a stressed operating environment. Shares of the health insurer are rising more than 5 percent.

Automotive Holdings Group said it will record a combined impairment of A$226 million against its struggling franchised and refrigerated logistics businesses in its first-half year results due to poor retail conditions and banking industry disruption. The vehicle group's shares are falling more than 8 percent.

Domain Holdings slipped to a first-half loss and declared an impairment of A$179 million due to a fall in listings on Sydney and Melbourne's stumbling property markets. However, the real estate classifieds business's shares are gaining almost 17 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7103, down from $0.7121 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is declining following the mixed cues from Wall Street on weak U.S. retail sales data and as a stronger yen weighed on exporters' shares.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 192.55 points or 0.91 percent to 20,947.16, after touching a low of 20,853.33 earlier. Japanese shares ended roughly flat on Thursday.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Canon is down 0.3 percent, Sony is down 0.4 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is declining almost 1 percent and Panasonic is losing more than 1 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is rising 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.6 percent.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is edging down 0.1 percent and Honda is lower by almost 2 percent. In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are declining more than 1 percent each.

In the oil space, Inpex is adding 0.4 percent and Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Showa Shell Sekiyu is rising more than 3 percent, DIC Corp. and Amada Holdings are higher by more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Trend Micro is losing more than 9 percent, Kubota Corp. is declining more than 8 percent and Kirin Holdings is lower by more than 7 percent following weak earnings results for the full year.

Shares of Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan are losing almost 10 percent after the company said Thursday it will seek about 700 employees for voluntary retirement and also projected a 29 percent decline in fiscal 2019 net profit.

On the economic front, Japan will provide final December figures for industrial production today.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Thursday after showing initial weakness as a report from the Commerce Department unexpectedly showed a substantial decrease in retail sales in December, increasing the appeal of safe havens like bonds. Selling pressure waned over the course of the morning, as traders continued to express optimism about U.S.-China trade talks and avoiding another government shutdown.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the day up 6.58 points or 0.1 percent to 7,426.95, while the Dow dropped 103.88 points 0.4 percent to 25,439.39 and the S&P 500 fell 7.30 points or 0.3 percent to 2,745.73.

The major European markets also ended mixed on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.2 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices regained initial lost ground on Thursday and eventually settled on a positive note, amid optimism the ongoing U.S-China trade discussions might result in the two countries moving closer to reaching a trade deal. WTI crude for March rose $0.51 or about 1 percent to close at $54.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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