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Asian Markets Mixed After China Data

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Wednesday despite the modest gains overnight on Wall Street and upbeat Chinese economic data that helped ease worries about a global economic slowdown.

The National Bureau of Statistics said that China's gross domestic product or GDP expanded 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 on a yearly basis, beating forecasts for an increase of 6.3 percent.

In addition, China's retail sales growth for March also beat expectations, while its fixed asset investment for the month rose in line with expectations.

The Australian market is declining after three straight days of gains and despite the positive cues from Wall Street.

Mining stocks are among the leading decliners, after Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Group reported a decline in iron ore production for the quarter ended March and also lowered its full-year production outlook. Investors are also cautious as they look ahead to the release of a raft of economic data from China later in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 12.40 points or 0.20 percent to 6,265.00, after touching a low of 6,263.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 14.20 points or 0.22 percent to 6,358.10. Australian shares closed modestly higher on Tuesday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is losing almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto is lower by more than 3 percent and Fortescue Metals is falling more than 7 percent.

BHP Group reported a 3 percent decline in iron ore production for the quarter ended March 2019 and also lowered its production outlook for the full year due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Veronica.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices fell more than 1 percent overnight. Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by 2 percent.

DuluxGroup said its board of directors has unanimously recommended that its shareholders approve a A$3.8 billion acquisition proposal for the Australian paint and homeware company by Japanese paint group Nippon Paint Holdings Co. Shares of DuluxGroup are gaining more than 27 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are higher in a range of 0.9 percent to 1.4 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher after crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search is advancing almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent.

Santos said its first-quarter production jumped 33 percent from last year, while revenues grew nearly 28 percent. The independent gas producer's shares are rising more than 1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see March results for the leading 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 $0.7175, down from $0.7150 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is advancing following the modest gains on Wall Street and on upbeat Japanese trade data for March. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they await a raft of economic data from China due later in the day.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 107.70 points or 0.48 percent to 22,329.36, after touching a high of 22,334.07 earlier. Japanese shares hit a fresh four-month high on Tuesday.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Canon is rising more than 1 percent, Sony is adding 0.6 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is higher by 0.4 percent and Panasonic is up 0.2 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is rising more than 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda is up 1 percent and Toyota is higher by more than 1 percent.

At a major auto show in China on Tuesday, Toyota unveiled the electrified C-HR and IZOA models, the first two electric SUV models that the company plans to mass market in China.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are rising almost 2 percent each. In the oil sector, Inpex is up more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is adding 0.5 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Rakuten is gaining 8 percent, Screen Holdings is rising more than 5 percent and Omron Corp. is higher by almost 5 percent.

On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing almost 7 percent and Olympus Corp is declining almost 3 percent.

Shares of Nippon Paint Holdings are losing more than 3 percent after the Japanese paint company made a A$3.8 billion acquisition proposal for Australian paint and homeware company DuluxGroup.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 528.5 billion yen in March. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of 363.2 billion yen and was up from 334.9 billion yen in February.

Exports were down 2.4 percent on year, beating expectations for a decline of 2.6 percent following the 1.2 percent drop in the previous month. Imports were up 1.1 percent on year versus expectations for a gain of 2.8 percent following the 6.6 percent contraction a month earlier.

Japan will also provide March data for store sales as well as final February figures for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 112 yen-range on Wednesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday after early buying interest was generated in reaction to earnings news from Dow components Johnson & Johnson and UnitedHealth. This was partly offset by a report from the Federal Reserve showing industrial production unexpectedly edged lower in the month of March.

The S&P 500 briefly dipped into negative territory in late-day trading but ended the session up 1.48 points or 0.1 percent to 2,907.06. The Dow climbed 67.89 points or 0.3 percent to 26,452.66 and the Nasdaq rose 24.21 points or 0.3 percent to 8,000.23.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index climbed by 0.7 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Tuesday amid prospects of tight supply conditions in the market. WTI crude for May ended up $0.65 or about 1 percent at $64.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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