Asian Markets Mostly Higher

asiancommentary jan18 24may20 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday despite the lackluster cues from Wall Street Friday amid concerns over rising U.S.-China tensions. Optimism about a recovery in growth following the reopening of economies and hopes about more stimulus measures by global central banks helped lift stocks.

The Australian market is notably higher, with stocks rising across the board. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 81.50 points or 1.48 percent to 5,578.50 after touching a high of 5,589.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 82.90 points or 1.48 percent to 5,691.70. Australian markets closed lower on Friday.

In the oil sector, Oil Search is gaining more than 3 percent, Santos is rising almost 3 percent and Woodside Petroleum is higher by almost 2 percent, even as crude oil prices declined about 2 percent on Friday.

In the banking space, National Australia Bank is rising more than 2 percent, ANZ Banking is higher by 2 percent, Westpac is advancing more than 1 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is adding almost 1 percent.

In the mining space, Rio Tinto is advancing more than 1 percent, BHP is adding almost 1 percent, and Fortescue Metals is rising 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices rose on Friday. Evolution Mining is higher by more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is adding 0.3 percent.

Afterpay Touch Group said its interim chairperson Elana Rubin will take over the role permanently. The company also recruited US-based Sharon Rothstein to join its board as a non-executive director as it focuses on bolstering its presence in the US market. The e-commerce provider's shares are higher by more than 5 percent.

Nine Entertainment Co. said it has agreed to sell New Zealand media giant Stuff to its own management team led by chief executive Sinead Boucher. Shares of Nine Entertainment are gaining almost 5 percent.

QBE Insurance said its exposure to business interruption insurance claims by customers in the UK will be limited to A$115 million due to reinsurance. The insurance giant's shares are rising almost 6 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6544, compared to Friday's close of $0.6515.

The Japanese market is advancing despite the lackluster cues from Wall Street Friday. Investor sentiment was buoyed by news that the Japanese government plans to completely lift the state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic in Tokyo and other areas today.

In addition, the Nikkei newspaper reported that the Japanese government is finalizing a coronvirus relief package of more than 100 trillion yen, or $928 billion, to aid struggling companies.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 206.35 points or 1.01 percent to 20,594.51, after touching a high of 20,713.02 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding 0.3 percent and Fast Retailing is rising more than 2 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric are adding more than 1 percent each, while Canon is up 0.5 percent. Sony is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is down 0.4 percent, while Tokyo Electron is up 0.5 percent. Among automakers, Honda Motor is gaining almost 3 percent, while Toyota is rising almost 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is gaining more than 2 percent and Japan Petroleum is adding 0.7 percent even as crude oil prices declined on Friday.

Among the other major gainers, Casio Computer is gaining more than 10 percent and ANA Holdings is rising almost 6 percent. IHI Corp. and Tokyu Fudosan are higher by more than 5 percent each.

On the flip side, Nippon Sheet Glass is losing more than 4 percent and Fujifilm Holdings is lower by almost 4 percent.

In economic news, Japan will see final March numbers for its leading and coincident economic indexes today.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and New Zealand are also higher, while Shanghai and Taiwan are little changed. Hong Kong is lower by almost 1 percent. The markets in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are closed on Monday for Eid-ul-Fitr.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Friday before ending the day little changed. Concerns about rising tensions between the U.S. and China kept traders on the sidelines, as Beijing moved to strengthen control over Hong Kong with new security laws. U.S. President Donald Trump warned that Washington would react "very strongly" if China follows through on its plans. The latest developments come after the Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would potentially delist Chinese stocks from U.S. exchanges.

While the Dow edged down 8.96 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 24,465.16, the Nasdaq climbed 39.71 points or 0.4 percent to 9,324.59 and the S&P 500 rose 6.94 points or 0.2 percent to 2,955.45.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While the German DAX Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Friday as concerns about the outlook for energy demand resurfaced due to rising tensions between the U.S. and China over Hong Kong. WTI crude for July delivery slid $0.67 or about 2 percent to $33.25 a barrel.

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