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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Cautious Trades

asiancommentary aug20 16oct19 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday following the modest losses overnight on Wall Street after data showed an unexpected decrease in U.S. retail sales in September. Investors also remained cautious amid uncertainty about a U.S.-China trade deal and as negotiations on Brexit continued.

The Australian stock market is declining following the negative cues from Wall Street on weak economic data. Investors turned cautious as they digested Australia's unemployment data for September released earlier in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 17.70 points or 0.26 percent to 6,718.80, off a low of 6,717.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 17.80 points or 0.26 percent to 6,825.40. Australian stocks rose on Wednesday for the fifth straight day.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is lower by almost 3 percent, Rio Tinto is losing more than 2 percent and BHP Group is declining almost 2 percent.

BHP reported that its first-quarter total iron ore production declined by 1 percent, and was flat on a 100 per cent basis, reflecting planned maintenance at Port Hedland. The company reaffirmed its fiscal 2020 iron ore production outlook.

South32 reported a 9 percent increase in coking coal production for the first quarter and affirmed its fiscal 2020 production outlook across all of its operations. The miner's shares are rising almost 2 percent.

Gold miner Evolution Mining is losing almost 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is down 0.2 percent even as gold prices rose overnight.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.

ANZ Banking said it has agreed to reduce the sale price for its OnePath unit to A$850 million from the A$975 million set earlier, amid changing market conditions. The bank's shares are up 0.3 percent.

Bank of Queensland reported a 14 percent decrease in full-year 2019 cash earnings and also said it expects lower year-on-year cash earnings in fiscal 2020 due to higher costs and operating expenses. Share of the bank are losing more than 3 percent.

Insurance Australia Group's shares are rising 0.7 percent after the company said it will sell its stake in Indian company SBI General.

Oil stocks are also higher after crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search is adding 0.7 percent and Santos is rising more than 1 percent.

Woodside Petroleum reported third-quarter revenue that was flat with last year, while production increased from the year-ago period. The oil and gas producer's shares are advancing almost 1 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.2 percent in September. That was shy of expectations for 5.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the August reading.

The Australian economy added 14,700 jobs last month, below forecasts for 15,000 following the increase of 34,700 jobs in the previous month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6759, up from $0.6738 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher in choppy trading, recovering from a weak start following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street. Investors remained cautious after the release of weak U.S. retail sales data and amid worries about Brexit.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 47.71 points or 0.21 percent to 22,520.63, after falling to a low of 22424.92 in early trades.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Sony is advancing more than 1 percent and Panasonic is edging up 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is lower by 0.7 percent and Canon is declining 0.6 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 2 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.5 percent. Among auto stocks, Toyota Motor is declining almost 1 percent and Honda Motor is down 0.2 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is adding 0.4 percent, while Fast Retailing is down 0.2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Yamato Holdings is rising almost 4 percent and Shionogi & Co. is advancing almost 2 percent.

On the flip side, Toho Zinc is losing almost 3 percent, while Sumitomo Metal Mining, Pacific Metals, Central Japan Railway and NTN Corp. are all lower by more than 2 percent each.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are also lower. Hong Kong is rising more than 1 percent, while Shanghai and Indonesia are modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Wednesday in choppy trading as traders digested mixed U.S. economic data as well as the latest batch of corporate earnings news. The Commerce Department noted an unexpected decrease in U.S. retail sales in September, while the National Association of Home Builders released a report showing homebuilder confidence unexpectedly climbed to its highest level in well over a year in the month of October.

The Dow shed 22.82 points or 0.08 percent to end at 27,001.98, the Nasdaq lost 24.52 points or 0.30 percent to 8,124.18 and the S&P 500 fell 5.99 points or 0.20 percent to 2,989.69.

The major European markets mostly ended weak on Wednesday as investors largely stayed cautious, looking ahead to the outcome of Brexit talks and amid uncertainty about a U.S.-China trade deal. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 declined 0.61 percent and France's CAC 40 edged down 0.09 percent, while Germany's DAX advanced 0.32 percent.

Crude oil prices edged higher on Wednesday amid expectations OPEC will continue to cut output. WTI crude for November ended up $0.55 or 1 percent at $53.36 a barrel.

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