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Asian Shares Finish Mostly Higher

stockmarkets aug20 06aug20 lt

Asian stocks finished mostly higher on Thursday, although underlying sentiment remained cautious amid concerns about the economic outlook as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 8.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,386.46 on hopes for an economic recovery and some encouraging news regarding coronavirus vaccines. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 171.96 points, or 0.7 percent, to 24,930.58.

Japanese shares ended lower as downbeat earnings and forecasts due to the Covid-19 pandemic dampened investor sentiment. The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 96.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 22,418.15, while the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent lower at 1,549.88, dragged down by technology and consumer staple stocks.

Honda Motor slumped 6.3 percent after the carmaker posted its worst quarterly operating loss since the March 2009 quarter and forecast a 68 percent decrease in annual operating profit. Toyota Motor bucked the weak trend to end 2.3 percent higher as it unexpectedly avoided a loss last quarter.

Australian markets finished modestly higher as higher commodity prices helped lift miners and energy companies. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 40.90 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,042.20, while the All Ordinaries Index ended up 44.40 points, or 0.7 percent, at 6,180.30.

BHP surged 4.9 percent and Rio Tinto added 1.5 percent as iron ore futures extended gains amid more signs of improving downstream steel demand in China.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos jumped 2-4 percent after oil prices hit a five-month high. Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose about 1 percent, while healthcare stocks ended broadly lower.

Qantas Airways rallied 2.2 percent after Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government will continue to look at what further support can be provided to the aviation sector.

Seoul stocks rose sharply to close at a near two-year high on hopes U.S. lawmakers will soon reach a deal on a new stimulus package. The benchmark Kospi jumped 30.75 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,342.61.

South Korea posted a current account surplus of $6.88 billion in June, the Bank of Korea said today, up from $2.29 billion in May. The goods account surplus narrowed to $5.87 billion, compared to $6.27 billion in June 2019.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing marginally higher, led by financials.

U.S. stocks rose overnight as investors cheered a surprise quarterly profit from Disney, upbeat service sector activity data and signs of progress in U.S. stimulus talks. Traders largely shrugged off a report showing a substantial slowdown in private sector job growth in July.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 1.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained half a percent, while the S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent to reach a five-month closing high.

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