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Japanese Market Modestly Higher In Choppy Trade

The Japanese stock market is modestly higher on Thursday in choppy trade following the positive cues from Wall Street. Investor sentiment was dampened after China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported a sharp increase in the number of new coronavirus cases.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 25.48 points or 0.11 percent to 23,886.69, after falling to a low of 23,793.94 earlier. Japanese stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is adding 0.5 percent after strong gains in the previous session. Fast Retailing is rising more than 2 percent.

In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent, while Advantest is down 0.3 percent. Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is adding 0.7 percent and Toyota Motor is rising 0.5 percent.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a slightly weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent, Panasonic is declining 0.6 percent and Sony is down 0.2 percent, while Canon is adding 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is gaining more than 3 percent and Inpex is advancing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is rising more than 8 percent, Tokyo Tatemono is gaining more than 3 percent and Marui Group is advancing more than 2 percent.

Conversely, Ebara Corp. is falling almost 10 percent, Citizen Watch is lower by almost 8 percent and Toppan Printing is losing 7 percent.

In economic news, the Bank of Japan said that producer prices in Japan were up 0.2 percent on month in January. That exceeded expectations for a flat reading following the 0.1 percent increase in December.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday as traders seem committed to continuing to push stocks to new record highs despite concerns about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. While China's National Health Commission reported 2,015 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 97 additional deaths, a recent slowdown in the rate of growth in new infections has led to optimism the outbreak is being contained.

The Dow jumped 275.08 points or 0.9 percent to 29,551.42, the Nasdaq advanced 87.02 points or 0.9 percent to 9,725.96 and the S&P 500 climbed 21.70 points or 0.7 percent at 3,379.45.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices moved up sharply on Wednesday amid expectations that OPEC and allies will significantly cut crude production, and on reports from China that the number of new infections due to the coronavirus has come down a bit. WTI crude for March ended up $1.23 or about 2.5 percent at $51.17 a barrel.

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