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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday with modest gains following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street for the first time in three days and the substantial rebound in crude oil prices. Optimism about more stimulus measures from global central banks to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic also lifted stocks.

The Australian market turned mixed after rising in early trades. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is edging down 0.10 points to 5,221.20, after touching a high of 5,251.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 17.80 points or 0.34 percent to 5,291.60. Australian shares recovered from an early fall to end on a flat note Wednesday.

In the oil sector, Santos is gaining more than 8 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding more than 1 percent after crude oil futures rebounded overnight. Oil Search is losing more than 3 percent.

Santos reported a 13 percent decrease in first-quarter revenue on lower oil and gas prices, but raised its full-year production outlook and said it has sufficient liquidity to weather the oil price crash.

In the mining space, BHP is rising more than 3 percent, Rio Tinto is higher by more than 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent.

The big four banks - Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank - are higher in a range of 0.4 percent to 1.1 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is higher by more than 3 percent and Evolution Mining is advancing more than 1 percent after safe-haven gold prices rose to a one-week high overnight.

Carsales.com said it has stood down about 250 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic, waived fixed and variable advertising charges for the month of April and offered a 50 per cent discount in May to support its trade customers. The company's shares are rising more than 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6298, compared to $0.6331 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is rising. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is advancing 192.74 points or 1.01 percent to 19,330.69, after touching a high of 19,384.46 earlier. Japanese shares closed lower on Wednesday for the third straight day.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is adding more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is up 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is climbing more than 5 percent and Japan Petroleum is rising more than 3 percent after crude oil prices rebounded overnight.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is rising more than 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is adding 1 percent, Sony is higher by 0.6 percent and Canon is up 0.4 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is lower by almost 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is rising more than 2 percent and Toyota is adding 0.6 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Cyberagent is gaining more than 7 percent, Yokogawa Electric is rising almost 6 percent and JGC Holdings is higher by more than 5 percent.
Conversely, Eisai Co. is tumbling more than 7 percent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed that the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to contract in April, and at a faster pace, with a PMI score of 37.8. That's down from 41.1 in March and it moves further beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The survey also showed that the services index came in with a score of 22.8 and the composite was at 27.8.

Japan will also see final February figures for its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 107 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks rebounded on Wednesday, reflecting a positive reaction to a substantial rebound in oil prices following the historic drop seen earlier this week. Buying interest was also generated in reaction to news that the Senate has passed a new bill to provide funding for hospitals and small businesses and expand coronavirus testing. The $484 billion aid package was approved unanimously by the Senate and now heads to the House, which could approve the bill as soon as Thursday.

The Dow jumped 456.94 points or 2 percent to 23,475.82, the Nasdaq spiked 232.15 points or 2.8 percent to 8,495.38 and the S&P 500 surged up 62.75 points or 2.3 percent to 2,799.31.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. Tthe U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index spiked by 2.3 percent, the German DAX Index surged up by 1.6 percent and the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.3 percent.

Crude oil prices ended sharply higher on Wednesday, rebounding from recent big setbacks that resulted in the front month contract plunging to sub-zero levels for the first ever time in history. WTI crude for June delivery surged up $2.21 or about 19.1 percent to $13.78 a barrel.

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