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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

asiancommentary dec24 17nov19 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday with modest gains as investors awaited further progress on a potential U.S.-China trade deal. On Saturday, Chinese state media said that the U.S. and China had "constructive discussions" regarding a phase-one trade deal in a high-level phone call. The ongoing protests in Hong Kong also weighed on sentiment.

The Australian market is declining despite the positive cues from Wall Street Friday.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is lower by 42.80 points or 0.63 percent to 6,750.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index is down 42.40 points or 0.61 percent to 6,856.50. Australian stocks closed higher on Friday.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.8 percent.

National Australia Bank is seeking to raise A$1.4 billion through the issue of medium-term notes to bolster its capital ahead of a regulatory deadline.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are declining more than 1 percent each after gold prices declined on Friday.

Meanwhile, the major miners are mostly higher. Rio Tinto is advancing 1 percent and BHP is adding 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher after crude oil prices rose Friday. Woodside Petroleum is rising 0.6 percent and Oil Search is adding 0.3 percent, while Santos is lower by almost 1 percent.

oOh!Media rejected rumors it has hired Macquarie Capital to help find a private equity firm to back a management buyout and delist from the ASX, saying that the rumors are "without basis or fact". Shares of the outdoor advertiser are in a trading halt.

Appen has raised its earnings outlook for the full year and also reiterated a lowered outlook for annual recurring revenue from its Figure Eight machine learning software. The tech company's shares are gaining more than 9 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6815, down from $0.6792 on Friday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher in choppy trade as investors awaited further progress on a potential U.S.-China trade deal.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 21.73 points or 0.09 percent to 23,325.05, after touching a low of 23,271.29 in early trades. Japanese shares closed higher on Friday.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Sony is advancing more than 1 percent and Canon is rising 0.2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is declining almost 1 percent and Panasonic is down 0.6 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is higher by more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is rising more than 1 percent.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group and South Korean internet giant Naver said they have reached a basic agreement on a merger by October 2020 of Z Holdings, formerly known as Yahoo Japan, and the Line chat app. Shares of Z Holdings are gaining almost 2 percent.

SoftBank Group is up more than 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among auto stocks, Toyota Motor is down 0.3 percent and Honda Motor is lower by 0.1 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is up 0.2 percent and Japan Petroleum adding 0.1 percent.

Among the major gainers, Eisai Co. is rising almost 3 percent.

On the flip side, Fuji Electric, Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Seven & I Holdings and DIC Corp. are lower by more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, Japan is scheduled to release third-quarter numbers for housing loans and October figures for condominium sales today.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Friday amid renewed optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal following comments from White House officials. Adding to the positive sentiment, China has lifted a nearly five-year ban on imports of U.S. poultry in a goodwill gesture that could lead to more than $1 billion in annual shipments to China. Traders also reacted positively to a report from the Commerce Department showing U.S. retail sales rebounded by slightly more than expected in the month of October.

The Dow jumped 222.93 points or 0.8 percent to 28,004.89, the Nasdaq climbed 61.81 points or 0.7 percent to 8,540.83 and the S&P 500 advanced 23.83 points or 0.8 percent to 3,120.46.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Friday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index rose by 0.5 percent and the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices rebounded after early weakness and ended sharply higher on Friday as renewed optimism about a potential U.S.-China trade deal and hopes the OPEC might decide to deepen their supply cuts in the coming year helped ease concerns about outlook for energy demand. WTI crude for December ended up $0.95 or about 1.7 percent at $57.72 a barrel.

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