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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street following upbeat earnings results from retail giants and the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting.

Investors remained cautious as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver a closely-watched speech on the challenges for monetary policy at the Economic Policy Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.

The Australian market is advancing following the positive lead from Wall Street. Investors also digested mixed local corporate earnings results and acquisition news.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 28.60 points or 0.44 percent to 6,511.90, after touching a high of 6,518.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 31.90 points or 0.49 percent to 6,604.50.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto are advancing almost 1 percent each, while BHP Group is adding 0.4 percent.

Lynas Corp. confirmed the receipt of a renewed operating license from Malaysia for its processing plant in that country. However, the rare earths miner's shares are down 0.4 percent.

The big four banks are modestly higher. ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are rising even as crude oil prices declined overnight. Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are advancing more than 1 percent each.

Santos reported an 89 percent jump in half-year profit and raised its forecast on savings from the acquisition of Quadrant Energy last year. The gas producer's shares are rising almost 4 percent.

Origin Energy said its full-year underlying profit grew 41.6 percent, but projected lower profit for its energy market business in fiscal 2020. The electricity and gas retailer's shares are higher by more than 3 percent.

Royal Dutch Shell has launched a A$617 million takeover bid for Australian energy retailer ERM Power, marking its foray into Australia's power sector. Shares of ERM Power are surging more than 42 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices ended flat overnight. Evolution Mining is declining almost 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is up 0.2 percent.

Coles Group reported a 9 percent decrease in full-year profit despite an increase in supermarket comparable sales and said it will pay a final dividend as well as a special dividend. The supermarket giant's shares are higher by more than 4 percent.

Qantas Airways reported a 17 percent decrease in full-year underlying profit despite higher revenues, but said it plans to buy back up to 79.7 million shares and raised its final dividend. The airline's shares are rising 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 $0.6783, up from 0.6776 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market opened higher following the overnight gains on Wall Street. However, the market has pared gains after data showed that Japan's manufacturing sector continued to contract in August.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 29.30 points or 0.14 percent to 20,647.87, after rising to a high of 20,731.19 in early trades.

In the auto sector, Honda Motor is up 0.1 percent and Toyota Motor is rising 0.3 percent. In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are rising more than 2 percent each.

The major exporters are lower despite a slightly weaker yen. Sony is declining more than 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is losing almost 1 percent, Canon is lower by 0.7 percent and Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is down 0.3 percent and Fast Retailing is declining 0.4 percent.

Oil stocks are mixed after crude oil prices declined overnight. Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 1 percent, while Inpex is declining almost 1 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Shiseido Co is rising more than 4 percent and Screen Holdings is gaining almost 4 percent.

On the flip side, Cyberagent is declining more than 2 percent, while Kuraray Co. and Shinsei Bank are lower by almost 2 percent each.

On the economic front, Japan will release preliminary August results for the manufacturing PMI from Nikkei, June results for its all industry activity index and final July figures for machine tool orders.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday as upbeat earnings news from retail giants Target and Lowe's added to optimism that strength in consumer spending will continue to support the U.S. economy despite early indicators of a looming recession. Stocks remained mostly positive following the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting, which showed the central bank intends to remain flexible regarding future changes to interest rates.

The Dow jumped 240.29 points or 0.9 percent to 26,202.73, the Nasdaq advanced 71.65 points or 0.9 percent to 8,020.21 and the S&P 500 climbed 23.92 points or 0.8 percent to 2,924.43.

The major European markets all showed strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.7 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices declined on Wednesday on lingering concerns about the outlook for near term energy demand due to global economic slowdown. WTI crude for October ended down $0.45 or about 0.8 percent to close at $55.68 a barrel.

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