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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday as optimism about a recovery in growth as more economies reopen and the possibility of further stimulus helped offset worries about rising U.S.-China tensions. Stimulus announcements by Japan and the European Commission on Wednesday helped boost sentiment.

The Australian market is notably higher, reflecting strong gains by banks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 116.10 points or 2.01 percent to 5,891.10 and the broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 114.90 points or 1.95 percent to 5,999.80. Australian stocks ended little changed with a negative bias on Wednesday.

The big four banks are sharply higher. ANZ Banking is gaining almost 6 percent, National Australia Bank is higher by 5 percent, Westpac is rising 4 percent and Commonwealth Bank is advancing almost 3 percent.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank said it will make a provision of A$148.3 million for potential future impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regional lender's shares are rising 7 percent.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is rising almost 3 percent, BHP is advancing almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is adding more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are higher even as gold prices edged lower overnight. Evolution Mining is gaining almost 4 percent and Newcrest Mining is higher by more than 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is declining 0.5 percent and Oil Search is down 0.3 percent, while Santos is adding 0.2 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight.

News Corp. Australia said that the bulk of its regional and suburban community papers in Australia will go digital only from June 29, leading to job losses. The media company's shares are rising more than 2 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see first-quarter numbers for capital expenditure and May figures for the business confidence index from ANZ.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6627, compared to Wednesday's close of $0.6644.

The Japanese market is rising and the safe-haven yen weakened following the overnight gains on Wall Street. The Japanese government on Wednesday approved another 117.1 trillion yen relief package to fend off the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 328.52 points or 1.53 percent to 21,747.75, after touching a high of 21,810.34 earlier. Japanese shares hit a three-month high on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is rising more than 3 percent.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is gaining more than 3 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is rising almost 3 percent, Canon is advancing more than 2 percent and Sony is adding almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is adding almost 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is up 0.3 percent. Among automakers, Honda Motor is rising more than 3 percent, while Toyota is higher by almost 3 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is declining almost 2 percent and Inpex is down 0.5 percent after crude oil prices fell more than 4 percent overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Dentsu Group is climbing more than 14 percent, Nissan Motor is higher by more than 9 percent and Mazda Motor is rising more than 8 percent. Mitsubishi Motors is gaining more than 6 percent.

French automaker Renault SA and its Japanese partners Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have announced steps to further standardize platforms and push for more joint purchasing to reduce costs. Renault will work on the body of electric cars and electric powertrains, while Nissan will focus on autonomous driving and Mitsubishi Motors will work on plug-in hybrids.

On the flip side, Dena Co. is losing more than 2 percent, while NEC Corp. and Trend Micro are lower by more than 1 percent each.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday as traders continued to express optimism about a quick economic recovery as the country reopens following the coronavirus lockdown. Adding to the positive sentiment was news that the European Commission plan to launch a massive recovery fund for the euro region to help limit the damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow surged up 553.16 points or 2.2 percent to 25,548.27, the Nasdaq climbed 72.14 points or 0.8 percent to 9,412.36 and the S&P 500 jumped 44.36 points or 1.5 percent to 3,036.13.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.8 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both jumped by 1.3 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Wednesday as worries about outlook for energy demand resurfaced due to rising tensions between the U.S. and China, and on reports of a likely move by Russia to increase crude output next month. WTI crude for July fell $1.54 or about 4.5 percent at $32.81 a barrel.

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