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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street after the U.S. Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and also indicated it no longer expects to raise rates this year. However, gains are modest in most markets amid worries about U.S.-China trade talks and slowing global economic growth. The Japanese market is closed for a holiday.

The Australian market is declining following the mixed cues from Wall Street. Investors also digested mixed Australian unemployment data for February.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 30.50 points or 0.49 percent to 6,134.80 after touching a low of 6,134.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 30.10 points or 0.48 percent to 6,221.70. Australian shares closed modestly lower on Wednesday.

The major miners are advancing despite a fall in iron ore prices. Rio Tinto and BHP Group are adding almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is up 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices rose overnight. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are advancing more than 1 percent each.

Among oil stocks, Santos is up 0.2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.6 percent and Oil Search is rising more than 1 percent after crude oil prices rose to a four-month high overnight.

The big four banks are mostly higher with modest gains. ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent, while National Australia Bank is down 0.2 percent.

Washington H Soul Pattinson reported a more than 22 percent increase in first-half profit, reflecting an increase in contributions from its stake in miner New Hope. However, the investment company's shares are losing almost 2 percent.

Navitas will get a one-off full-year profit contribution of about A$5 million after a UK court ruled that the company's local subsidiary SAE Education was exempt from paying the local value added tax. Meanwhile, the education service provider's shares are in a trading halt pending an announcement related to it's A$2.09 billion buyout offer by founder Rod Jones and private equity firm BGH.

Sigma Healthcare reported a fall in full-year profit by a third on restructuring costs after the company lost its supply deal to Chemist Warehouse pharmacies. However, the drugs wholesaler's shares are advancing almost 1 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent in February, beneath expectations for 5.0 percent, which would have been unchanged from the January reading.

The Australian economy added 4,600 jobs in February, shy of forecasts for the addition of 15,000 jobs following the gain of 38,300 jobs in the previous month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S dollar on Thursday following the announcement of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy decision. The local currency was quoted at $0.7127, up from $0.7076 on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Japanese market is closed on Thursday for the Vernal Equinox holiday. Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are all modestly higher, while Malaysia is lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after an initial positive reaction to the Fed's widely expected decision to leave interest rates unchanged while also indicating the central bank no longer expects to raise rates this year. Buying interest waned going into the close, however, as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned about the negative impact slowing economic growth in Europe and China will have on the U.S.

While the Nasdaq inched up 5.02 points or 0.1 percent to a new five-month closing high of 7,728.97, the Dow dropped 141.71 points or 0.6 percent to 25,745.67 and the S&P 500 fell 8.34 points or 0.3 percent to 2,824.23.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Wednesday. The German DAX Index plunged by 1.6 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.8 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil prices rose to a four-month high on Wednesday following the release of a report unexpectedly showing a steep weekly drop in U.S. crude oil inventories. WTI crude for April delivery climbed $0.80 to $59.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier topping $60.

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