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Asian Markets Lower On Trade Worries

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Asian stock markets are lower on Thursday following the weak cues overnight from Wall Street and the fall in crude oil prices, amid worries about U.S.-China trade talks and the Japan-South Korea trade dispute. Investors are also cautious as they digested regional economic data and corporate earnings results.

The Australian market is declining following the weak cues from Wall Street and as investors digested Australia's unemployment data for June and local corporate earnings results. Gains by miners were offset by weakness in energy and financial sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 11.40 points or 0.17 percent to 6,661.90, after touching a low of 6,656.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 15.60 points or 0.23 percent to 6,748.40. Australian stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

In the oil sector, Oil Search is losing more than 3 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos are lower by more than 2 percent each after crude oil prices extended losses overnight.

Santos reported record gas production in the second quarter and tightened its full-year production outlook range.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac - are lower in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are mostly higher. Rio Tinto is adding 0.3 percent and Fortescue Metals is edging up 0.1 percent, while BHP Group is declining 1 percent.

South32 reported a 69 percent surge in full-year coking coal production and said it has received bids for its South Africa Energy Coal assets. However, the miner's shares are down 0.5 percent.

Gold miners are notably higher after gold prices rose to a six-year high overnight. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 4 percent and Newcrest Mining is higher by almost 3 percent.

Lendlease Group said it has signed a A$20 billion deal with Google to develop 15 million square feet of residential, retail, hospitality and community space across three neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. The property giant's shares are gaining almost 5 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.2 percent in June, unchanged and in line with expectations.

The Australian economy added 500 jobs last month - well shy of expectations for an increase of 9,000 jobs following the increase of 42,300 in May.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is almost unchanged against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7009, compared to $0.7006 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is extending its losing streak to a third day following the negative cues from Wall Street and as investors worried about U.S.-China trade talks as well as Japan-South Korea trade tensions.

In addition, a stronger yen weighed on shares of exporters. Investors also digested Japan's trade data for June released today.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 256.62 points or 1.20 percent to 21,212.56, after falling to a low of 21,151.92 earlier. Japanese stocks closed lower on Wednesday.

The major exporters are notably lower on a stronger yen. Canon is declining more than 3 percent and Sony is losing almost 3 percent. Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are lower by more than 2 percent each.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is down 0.5 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by 0.4 percent.

In the auto space, Honda Motor is declining more than 1 percent and Toyota Motor is down 1 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is losing almost 3 percent and Japan Petroleum is lower by more than 2 percent after crude oil prices extended losses overnight.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is losing almost 2 percent, while Fast Retailing is edging up 0.1 percent.

Among the major decliners, Idemitsu Kosan is losing more than 4 percent and JXTG Holdings is lower by 4 percent. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Nikon Corp, Fukuoka Financial and Tokyo Seikan Group are all declining more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 589.5 billion yen in June. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of 403.5 billion yen following the 968.3 billion yen deficit of May.

Exports were down 6.7 percent on year, missing forecasts for a drop of 5.4 percent following the 7.4 percent drop in the previous month. Imports were down an annual 5.2 percent versus forecasts for a drop of 0.2 percent following the 1.5 percent decline a month earlier.

Japan will also provide June figures for Tokyo condominium sales today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 107 yen range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Wednesday, extending losses from the previous session following the release of a Commerce Department report showing a bigger than expected drop in housing starts as well as a nosedive in building permits. Trading activity was somewhat subdued as traders stuck to the sidelines as they wait for the earnings season to pick up steam being making more significant bets.

The Dow fell 115.78 points or 0.4 percent to 27,219.85, the Nasdaq dropped 37.59 points or 0.5 percent to 8,185.21 and the S&P 500 slid 19.62 points or 0.7 percent to 2,984.42.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Wednesday. The French CAC 40 Index slumped by 0.8 percent, the German DAX Index slid by 0.7 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dropped by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Wednesday after official data from U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a drop in crude oil stockpiles but a big jump in gasoline supply. WTI crude oil for August delivery slid $0.84 or about 1.5 percent to $56.78 a barrel.

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