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Asian Markets Rebound As U.S.-Iran Tensions Ease

asiancommentary dec24 08jan20 lt

Asian stock markets are rebounding on Thursday after comments by U.S. President Donald Trump indicated the U.S. would hit Iran with new sanctions, but not respond militarily.

Trump also said Iran appeared to be "standing down," adding that it was a good thing for all parties concerned and for the world. Trump's comments eased investors' concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East.

The Australian market is advancing, with tech, mining and financial stocks among the major gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 60.70 points or 0.89 percent to 6,878.30, after touching a high of 6,889.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is higher by 62.60 points or 0.90 percent to 6,992.70. Australian stocks recovered from steep losses to close modestly lower on Wednesday.

Among tech stocks, Wisetech Global is gaining almost 3 percent, Appen is rising more than 2 percent and Xero is adding almost 1 percent.

The major miners are also higher. Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals are all advancing more than 1 percent each.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking are up in a range of 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners declined after safe-haven gold prices snapped a ten-session winning streak overnight. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are losing more than 2 percent each.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices tumbled overnight. Oil Search is lower by 2 percent, Santos is declining more than 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down almost 1 percent.

In economic news, Australia will provide November numbers for trade balance today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6868, compared to $0.6973 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is notably higher while the safe-haven yen weakened to a two-week low as U.S.-Iran tensions appeared to ease.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 416.73 points or 1.80 percent to 23,621.49, off a high of 23,623.53 earlier. Japanese stocks ended sharply lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is gaining almost 3 percent and Fast Retailing is adding 0.7 percent.

Among tech stocks, Tokyo Electron is higher by more than 4 percent and Advantest is rising more than 3 percent.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is higher by more than 1 percent, Sony is advancing 1 percent, Panasonic is adding almost 1 percent and Canon is up 0.6 percent.

Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is up more than 1 percent and Toyota Motor is adding 0.6 percent.

Bucking the trend, Inpex is losing more than 4 percent and Japan Petroleum is lower by almost 4 percent after crude oil prices fell almost 5 percent overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Screen Holdings is rising more than 6 percent and Fujifilm Holdings is higher by more than 4 percent. Cyberagent, Pacific Metals and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha are advancing almost 4 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 109 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a statement responding to last night's attack by Iran, indicating the U.S. would hit Iran with new sanctions but not respond militarily. The market also benefited from a report from payroll processor ADP showing much stronger than expected private sector job growth in the month of December.

The Dow climbed 161.41 points or 0.6 percent to 28,745.09, the Nasdaq advanced 60.66 points or 0.7 percent to 9,129.24 and the S&P 500 rose 15.87 points or 0.5 percent to 3,253.05.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just above the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices declined sharply and ended at four-week lows on Wednesday as worries about U.S.-Iran tensions eased a bit and official data showed an unexpected rise in U.S. crude inventories. WTI crude for February tumbled $3.09 or about 4.9 percent to $59.61 a barrel.

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