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Asian Markets Mixed In Choppy Trade

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Thursday in choppy trade amid conflicting reports on the progress in the ongoing U.S.-China trade talks.

The New York Times reported that the Trump administration plans to soon issue licenses to U.S. companies to sell certain goods to Huawei Technologies after having blacklisted the Chinese technology giant earlier this year. Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the talks, that a tariff increase on Chinese goods scheduled for next week by the U.S. could be suspended.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported that the US and China did not make any progress in deputy level trade talks this week and that the Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He will leave Washington DC on Thursday, a day earlier than planned.

The Australian market is declining in choppy trade. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 12.10 points or 0.18 percent to 6,534.60, after rising to a high of 6,570.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 12.80 points or 0.19 percent to 6,654.20. Australian stocks closed lower on Wednesday.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is losing more than 2 percent, Rio Tinto is declining 0.2 percent and BHP Billiton is down 0.1 percent.

The big four banks - National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac - are lower in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.

Bank of Queensland said it has appointed former NAB executive Ewen Stafford as its chief financial officer and chief operating officer. The regional lender's shares are down 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly weak after crude oil prices edged lower overnight. Santos is lower by almost 1 percent and Oil Search is down 0.4 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is rising 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are mixed even as gold prices snapped a three-day losing streak and ended higher overnight. Evolution Mining is adding 0.1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is losing more than 1 percent.

Orora said it has agreed to sell its cardboard packaging unit to Japan's Nippon Paper for A$1.7 billion. The materials firm's shares are gaining more than 17 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total number of home loans in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent on month in August, coming in at 33,468. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 2.3 percent following the upwardly revised 4.3 percent increase in July.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6715, down from $0.6738 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is rising in choppy trade. Renewed worries about U.S.-China trade talks and weak Japanese core machine orders data weighed on sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 99.29 points or 0.46 percent to 21,555.67, after touching a low of 21,308.88 in early trades. Japanese stocks declined on Wednesday.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.2 percent.

The major exporters are lower despite a weaker yen. Panasonic is losing almost 2 percent, Sony is declining more than 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is lower by almost 1 percent and Canon is down 0.7 percent.

Sony said its highly-anticipated gaming console PlayStation 5 will go on sale in time for the next year's holiday season.

In the auto sector, Toyota Motor is losing 1 percent and Honda Motor is lower by 0.5 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is advancing almost 1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Japan Petroleum is lower by 0.7 percent and Inpex is declining 0.6 percent after crude oil prices edged lower overnight.

Australia's Orora said it has agreed to sell its cardboard packaging unit to Japan's Nippon Paper for A$1.7 billion. Shares of Nippon Paper are declining 0.3 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Aeon Co. is gaining more than 5 percent and AGC Inc. is rising more than 2 percent, while J Front Retailing and Nippon Sheet Glass are advancing almost 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Haseko Corp. is losing more than 3 percent and Nikon Corp. is lower by more than 2 percent.

On the economic front, the Cabinet Office said that core machine orders in Japan fell a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent on month in August, standing at 875.3 billion yen. That missed expectations for a flat reading following the 6.6 percent decline in July.

The Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 2.0 percent on year in September, coming in at 539.350 trillion yen. That was in line with expectations and up from 2.1 percent in August.

Producer prices in Japan were flat on month in September - matching forecasts following the 0.3 percent decline in August.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Indonesia are also modestly higher, while South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore are lower. Malaysia is little changed. The markets in Taiwan are closed for holidays.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday amid renewed optimism about upcoming U.S.-China trade talks after a report from Bloomberg News said China is still open to reaching a partial trade deal with the U.S. Meanwhile, traders largely shrugged off the minutes of the Federal Reserve's September monetary policy meeting, which revealed a few participants expressed concerns that the markets expect more interest rate cuts than are appropriate.

The Dow climbed 181.97 points or 0.7 percent to 26,346.01, the Nasdaq surged up 79.96 points or 1 percent to 7,903.74 and the S&P 500 jumped 26.34 points or 0.9 percent to 2,919.40.

The major European markets all moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.8 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures settled slightly lower on Wednesday following the release of a report showing an increase in U.S. crude inventories in the week ended October 4. WTI crude for November edged down $0.04 to $52.59 a barrel.

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