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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Ahead Of U.S. GDP Data


Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday following the mixed lead overnight from Wall Street as the corporate earnings season continued. Investors remained cautious as they await the release of the closely watched U.S. first-quarter gross domestic product data later in the day.

The Australian market, which was closed for the ANZAC Day holiday on Thursday, is declining following the mixed cues from Wall Street and lower crude oil prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 10.60 points or 0.17 percent to 6,371.50, after touching a low of 6,364.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 12.90 points or 0.20 percent to 6,457.70.

In the mining space, Fortescue Metals is lower by more than 4 percent, BHP Group is declining 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.3 percent.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices declined overnight. Oil Search is down 0.5 percent, Santos is lower by 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is losing more than 1 percent.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are down in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent, while Westpac is edging up 0.1 percent.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is gaining 3 percent and peer Evolution Mining is rising more than 3 percent after a modest increase in gold prices.

Shares of Flight Centre Travel Group are losing more than 12 percent after the travel agency lowered its full-year profit outlook due to a weaker than expected performance in the Australian leisure market.

In economic news, Australia will provide first-quarter numbers for producer prices as well as import and export prices today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is almost flat against the U.S dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7014, compared to $0.7016 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is losing following the mixed cues from Wall Street and on a stronger yen. Investors are cautious as they digested a raft of mixed local economic data ahead of the ten-day Golden Week holiday in Japan beginning this weekend.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 153.93 points or 0.69 percent to 22,153.65, after touching a low of 22,073.10 earlier. Japanese shares reversed early losses to close higher on Thursday.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Sony is declining almost 2 percent, while Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric are losing more than 1 percent each. Canon is down 0.6 percent.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is losing more than 8 percent and Tokyo Electron is declining almost 3 percent. In the auto space, Toyota is down almost 1 percent and Honda is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining almost 1 percent. In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is lower by more than 2 percent and Inpex is down 0.4 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Yahoo Japan is gaining almost 5 percent, while Kyocera, Hino Motors and Fuji Electric are rising more than 4 percent each.

On the flip side, Showa Denko is losing more than 4 percent, while Kikkoman Corp., Screen Holdings and Chiyoda are declining more than 3 percent each.

On the economic front, retail sales in Japan were up a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent on month in March, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry or METI said. That beat expectations for a flat reading and was down from the 0.4 percent increase in February.

The METI said in a preliminary reading that industrial output in Japan was down a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent on month in March. That missed expectations for a flat reading following the 0.7 percent increase in February.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the jobless rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.5 percent in March. That exceeded expectations for 2.4 percent and was up from 2.3 percent in February.

Overall consumer prices in the Tokyo area were up 1.4 percent on year in April. That exceeded expectations for a rise of 1.1 percent and was up sharply from 0.9 percent in March.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 111 yen-range on Friday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed in a volatile session on Thursday. A steep drop by shares of 3M weighed on the Dow, after the company reported weaker than expected first-quarter results and lowered its full-year guidance. On the other hand, jumps by shares of Facebook and Microsoft contributed to the modest advance by the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

While the Dow climbed well off its worst levels of the day, the blue chip index still ended the day down 134.97 points or 0.5 percent to 26,462.08. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq rose 16.67 points or 0.2 percent to 8,118.68 and the S&P 500 inched up 1.08 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,926.17.

The major European markets all moved to the downside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both dropped by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures ended lower Thursday, extending losses from the previous session. WTI crude for June declined $0.68 or 1 percent at $65.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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