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Asian Markets Higher With Modest Gains

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday with modest gains following the positive cues from Wall Street Friday after the U.S. Labor Department's closely-watched monthly jobs report showed much stronger than expected job growth in the month of November.

Some of the markets in the region pared initial gains after data showed China's exports declined in November for the fourth consecutive month. Doubts about whether a U.S.-China trade deal will be reached before additional tariffs on Chinese imports come into effect on December 15 also weighed on sentiment.

The Australian market is modestly higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 6.70 points or 0.10 percent to 6,713.70, after touching a high of 6,740.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 7.30 points or 0.11 percent to 6,820.80. Australian stocks closed higher on Friday.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is rising almost 2 percent, while BHP and Rio Tinto are advancing more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are also advancing after crude oil prices ended higher on Friday. Santos and Oil Search are rising more than 2 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is higher by almost 2 percent.

Viva Energy Group said it expects its full-year underlying profit to fall by up to 41 percent due to weak refining margins. The oil and gas company's shares are lower by more than 6 percent.

The big four banks are modestly higher. Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.3 percent, while ANZ Banking and Westpac are higher by 0.2 percent each and National Australia Bank is edging up 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are weak after gold prices declined on Friday. Evolution Mining is losing almost 3 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by more than 2 percent.

A2 Milk managing director and CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has stepped down from the New Zealand-based dairy company and will be replaced by former chief executive Geoffrey Babidge on an interim basis. The company's shares are losing almost 4 percent.

McMillan Shakespeare said it is experiencing more challenging than expected trading conditions in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Shares of the salary packaging and asset management company are losing more than 12 percent.

The Reject Shop said it has appointed Target chief operating officer Andre Reiche as its new chief executive officer, succeeding Ross Sudano who quit in May. The discount retailer's shares are rising more than 2 percent.

Prime Media Group said its shareholders will get a fully franked special dividend of three cents per share if the regional broadcaster's acquisition by Seven West Media is approved later this month. The company's shares are unchanged.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6837, down from $0.6845 on Friday.

The Japanese market has pared initial gains and is modestly higher. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 52.56 points or 0.23 percent to 23,406.96, after touching a high of 23,544.31 earlier. Japanese shares rose on Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. and Fast Retailing are advancing almost 1 percent each.

The major exporters are higher despite a slightly stronger yen. Panasonic is rising more than 1 percent, Sony is advancing 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.4 percent and Canon is edging up 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is declining more than 1 percent while Tokyo Electron is up 0.2 percent. Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is up 0.2 percent, while Toyota Motor is down 0.4 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is surging almost 4 percent and Inpex is gaining almost 3 percent after crude oil prices rose more than 1 percent on Friday.

Among the other major gainers, Idemitsu Kosan is gaining almost 3 percent, while IHI Corp., NTN Corp., JXTG Holdings and JGC Holdings are rising more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Terumo Corp., Sekisui House, Fujitsu, Mitsui Fudosan and Olympus Corp. are all losing almost 2 percent each.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Friday after the Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report showed much stronger than expected U.S. job growth in the month of November.

The report said non-farm payroll employment surged up by 266,000 jobs in November after climbing by an upwardly revised 156,000 jobs in October. Economists had expected an increase of about 180,000 jobs compared to the addition of 128,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The Dow soared 337.26 points or 1.2 percent to 28,015.06, the Nasdaq surged up 85.83 points or 1 percent to 8,656.53 and the S&P 500 jumped 28.48 points or 0.9 percent to 3,145.91.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Friday. While the German DAX Index advanced by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index surged up by 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

WTI crude for January delivery climbed $0.77 or about 1.3 percent to $59.20 a barrel on Friday after OPEC and its allies confirmed plans to deepen oil production cuts to 1.7 million barrels a day.

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