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Japanese Market Modestly Higher

The Japanese stock market is modestly higher on Thursday and the yen strengthened following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street after comments from Federal Reserve Jerome Powell seemed to confirm the central bank is likely to cut interest rates in the near future.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 34.63 points or 0.16 percent to 21,568.11, after touching a high of 21,583.76 earlier. Japanese shares closed lower on Wednesday.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Panasonic is declining almost 1 percent and Sony is down 0.3 percent, while Canon and Mitsubishi Electric are rising 0.2 percent each.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is rising 0.6 percent and Tokyo Electron is higher by 0.5 percent. In the auto space, Honda Motor is lower by almost 1 percent and Toyota Motor is declining 0.6 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is higher by almost 3 percent and Inpex is advancing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices surged to a seven-week high overnight.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising almost 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining 1 percent.

Shares of Japan Post Insurance are losing more than 6 percent after the company admitted mismanagement in connection with more than 90,000 insurance policies.

Among the other major gainers, FamilyMart UNY is gaining almost 4 percent, while Dena Co. and Yahoo Japan are rising more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Chiba Bank and Suzuki Motor are declining more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see May results for its tertiary industry index today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 108 yen range on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks pulled back off best levels, but still closed higher on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's prepared remarks before the House Financial Services Committee led to renewed optimism about a potential rate cut by the Fed at its next meeting later this month. Largely mirroring Powell's remarks, the minutes of the central bank's June meeting released later in the day said many participants believe the case for lowering interest rates has strengthened. However, traders seemed wary of making more substantial bets on stocks, as a rate cut would only be necessary in the face of a slowing economy.

The Dow rose 76.71 points or 0.3 percent to 26,860.20, the Nasdaq advanced 60.80 points or 0.8 percent to 8,202.53 and the S&P 500 climbed 13.44 points or 0.5 percent to 2,993.07.

The major European markets closed lower on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.5 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil prices rose to a seven-week high on Wednesday following the release of a report showing a steep drop in U.S. crude oil inventories. WTI crude for August delivery surged $2.60 or 4.5 percent to $60.43 a barrel.

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