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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Investor sentiment was boosted after China's central bank set the official reference rate for the yuan at weaker than 7 per dollar for the first time since 2008.

Investors also digested news that Japan has granted approval for some exports of semiconductor manufacturing materials to South Korea, marking the first approvals after Tokyo tightened export controls in July.

The Australian market is edging higher, rebounding after a weak start. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they digested local corporate earnings results and also looked ahead to the release of China's trade data for July later in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 1.40 points or 0.02 percent to 6,520.90, after falling to a low of 6,462.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 7.70 points or 0.12 percent to 6,596.20. Australian stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank - are lower in a range of 0.7 percent to 1.3 percent.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices tumbled overnight. Santos and Woodside Petroleum are lower by almost 1 percent each and Oil Search is losing more than 1 percent.

In the mining space, BHP Group is edging up 0.1 percent, Rio Tinto is rising 0.7 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing almost 1 percent.

BHP Group has approved a $283 million investment to fund the development of an oil and gas project in Trinidad and Tobago.

Gold miners are higher after gold prices rose overnight. Newcrest Mining is advancing more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is adding almost 1 percent.

AGL Energy reported a 2 percent increase in underlying profit and announced a $650 million share buyback, but projected a lower underlying profit for the next year. The power producer's shares are losing more than 6 percent.

Insurance Australia Group reported a more than 16 percent increase in net profit for the full year, while its insurance profit declined 13 percent due to higher costs related to natural disasters. The company's shares are lower by more than 4 percent.

Lendlease has been hit with a second shareholder class action alleging investors were kept in the dark over the under-performance of its construction business. The company's shares are declining more than 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6762, compared to $0.6711 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher in choppy trading following the mostly positive cues from Wall Street. Investor sentiment was boosted following news that the Japanese government has approved some exports of semiconductor manufacturing materials to South Korea, marking the first approvals after Tokyo tightened export controls in July.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 103.67 points or 0.51 percent to 20,620.23, after touching a low of 20,462.98 in early trades. Japanese stocks closed lower on Wednesday.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Sony and Canon are down 0.6 percent percent, while Panasonic is edging up 0.1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.4 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is declining 2 percent, while Fast Retailing is rising 0.5 percent. In the auto sector, Toyota Motor is up 0.5 percent, while Honda Motor is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is lower by more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is losing more than 2 percent after crude oil prices tumbled overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Sumitomo Osaka Cement is gaining almost 7 percent, Comsys Holdings is rising almost 6 percent and Dai Nippon Printing is higher by more than 5 percent.

On the flip side, IHI Corp. is losing more than 12 percent, Marui Group is lower by more than 10 percent and JXTG Holdings is declining almost 6 percent.

On the economic front, Japan will provide second-quarter numbers for housing loans, June figures for current account and July results for bank lending as well as the eco watchers survey.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 106 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks recovered after seeing an early sell-off as the escalating U.S.-China trade war has investors paying close attention to daily developments on the currency front. Selling pressure waned after Treasury yields rebounded from an early move to the downside and as traders digested aggressive interest rate cuts by central banks in India, New Zealand and Thailand.

The Down ended down 22.45 points or 0.1 percent at 26,007.07, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 29.56 points or 0.3 percent to 7,862.83 and the S&P 500 inched up 2.21 points or 0.1 percent to 2,883.98.

The major European markets all moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index climbed by 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices plunged sharply on Wednesday as the deepening U.S.-China trade crisis raised possibilities of a prolonged slowdown of the global economy and concerns about a likely drop in near term energy demand. WTI crude for September tumbled $2.54 or 4.7 percent to close at $51.09 a barrel.

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