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Japanese Market Pares Gains

The Japanese stock market pared initial gains and is modestly higher on Thursday after U.S. stocks closed mostly higher overnight following the signing of the long-awaited trade deal between the U.S. and China. Upbeat Japanese core machinery order data failed to boost sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 8.29 points or 0.03 percent to 23,924.87, after touching a high of 23,975.38 in early trades. Japanese stocks closed lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is declining 0.6 percent, while Fast Retailing is advancing more than 1 percent.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is lower by 0.6 percent and Tokyo Electron is down 0.5 percent.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Sony and Panasonic are rising more than 1 percent each, while Mitsubishi Electric is declining 0.2 percent and Canon is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is losing 0.7 percent and Toyota Motor is edging up 0.1 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is lower by 0.4 percent while Japan Petroleum is rising 0.3 percent after crude oil prices declined to a six-week low overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Daiichi Sankyo is rising more than 3 percent, while Daikin Industries, Suzuki Motor and Casio Computer are higher by more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, IHI Corp. and Hitachi Construction Machinery are losing more than 3 percent each, while Yaskawa Electric is lower by almost 3 percent.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said that core machine orders in Japan jumped a seasonally adjusted 18.0 percent on month, coming in at 942.7 billion yen. That blew past expectations for an increase of 2.9 percent following the 6.0 percent slide in October.

The Bank of Japan said producer prices in Japan were down 0.1 percent on month in December, in line with expectations and slowing from 0.2 percent in November.

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

On Wall Street, stocks saw early strength on Wednesday as traders awaited the signing of the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China. However, stocks pulled back after President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's chief trade negotiator, officially signed the agreement in a ceremony at the White House. Trump said the deal calls for China to purchase $200 billion worth of U.S. goods over the next two years, including up to $50 billion worth of agricultural products.

The Dow climbed 90.55 points or 0.3 percent to 29,030.22 and the S&P 500 rose 6.14 points or 0.2 percent to 3,289.29, but the Nasdaq pulled back near the unchanged line before closing down 0.41 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 9,250.92.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices settled at a six-week low on Wednesday after data showed a notable increase in gasoline and distillate stockpiles in the week ended January 10. WTI crude for February delivery fell $0.42 or about 0.7 percent to $57.81 a barrel.

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