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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

asiancommentary jan15 19may20 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday after a report from medical news website STAT raised concerns about the trial results of biotech company Moderna's coronavirus vaccine. The decline comes just a day after global stock markets rallied on reports of positive results from the phase one trial of the potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The Australian market is little changed, paring earlier losses. The market opened lower after the STAT News report raised concerns about the trial results of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine. Worries about rising trade tensions between Australia and China following Australia's call for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak also weighed on stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is edging down 4.40 points or 0.08 percent to 5,555.10, after touching a low of 5,507.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 3.40 points or 0.06 percent to 5,662.20. Australian stocks rose to a more than two-month high on Tuesday.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, Westpac, National Australia and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are lower in a range of 1.0 percent to 1.5 percent.

In the mining space, BHP and Rio Tinto are declining more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are lower even as gold prices rose overnight. Evolution Mining is lower by almost 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is losing more than 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is lower by more than 1 percent and Santos is down 0.3 percent, while Oil Search is rising more than 1 percent after crude oil prices rose more than 2 percent overnight.

Australian Agricultural Co. reported a turnaround to profit for the full year, aided by a recovery in the live cattle markets. The company's shares are gaining more than 5 percent.

In economic news, Australia will see April results for the leading economic index from Westpac today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is edging higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6548, compared to Tuesday's close of $0.6546.

The Japanese market is extending gains from earlier sessions, despite the weak cues from Wall Street. Data showing that Japan's core machine orders fell less than expected in March boosted sentiment. Reports that Japan is considering lifting a state of emergency in Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto later this week also lifted stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is advancing 112.25 points or 0.55 percent to 20,545.70, after touching a high of 20,567.75 earlier. Japanese shares closed notably higher on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is down 0.2 percent, while Fast Retailing is advancing more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Sony is declining more than 2 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.6 percent, while Panasonic and Canon are adding 0.2 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is higher by more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is rising almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda Motor is declining almost 1 percent and Toyota is down 0.5 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is declining more than 2 percent and Inpex is lower by 0.4 percent even as crude oil prices rose overnight.

Sony Financial is gaining almost 8 percent after consumer electronics maker Sony offered to buy the remaining stake in its financial services business, Sony Financial Holdings, for 400 billion yen, or about $3.7 billion.

Among the other major gainers, Furukawa Electric is climbing more than 16 percent, while Screen Holdings and Fujikura are rising almost 4 percent each.

On the flip side, Denka Co. is losing 3 percent, while Fujifilm Holdings and Mitsubishi Motors are lower by almost 3 percent each.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said that core machine orders in Japan slid a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent on month in March, standing at 854.7 billion yen. That beat expectations for a tumble of 7.1 percent, following the 2.3 percent increase in February.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Tuesday as traders cashed in on the rally seen in the previous session. Traders have recently expressed considerable optimism about the economy reopening, although lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic led to some caution. Traders were also reacting to comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who reaffirmed the central bank will provide more support to the economy.

The Dow tumbled 390.51 points or 1.6 percent to 24,206.86, the Nasdaq slid 49.72 points or 0.5 percent to 9,185.10 and the S&P 500 slumped 30.97 points or 1.1 percent to 2,922.94.

The major European markets ended mixed on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index edged up by 0.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, supported by increased demand and output cuts, on the expiration of the front-month contract. WTI crude for June delivery climbed $0.68 or about 2.1 percent to $32.50 a barrel.

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