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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

asiancommentary dec24 24sep20 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and on optimism about a U.S. stimulus package as House Democrats reportedly plan to unveil a new $2.4 trillion relief bill in the coming days.

The Australian market is advancing following the positive cues from Wall Street. The 'Big Four' banks got a boost after the federal government said it would simplify bank lending rules to help people obtain loans and boost the economic recovery.

Investors also cheered news that Australia's three major states - New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria - plan to further ease coronavirus restrictions as infection rates continued to fall.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 67.80 points or 1.15 percent to 5,943.70, after touching a high of 5,947.20. The broader All Ordinaries Index is higher by 63.50 points or 1.05 percent to 6,120.00. Australian stocks closed lower on Thursday.

The big four banks are notably higher. Westpac is climbing almost 6 percent, National Australia Bank is gaining almost 5 percent, ANZ Banking is rising more than 4 percent and Commonwealth Bank is advancing more than 2 percent.

In the heavyweight mining sector, Rio Tinto is rising almost 2 percent, while BHP Group and Fortescue Metals are adding more than 1 percent each.

Gold miners are also rising after gold prices snapped a three-day losing streak to close higher overnight. Evolution Mining is higher by more than 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1 percent and Oil Search is up 0.2 percent, while Santos is unchanged after crude oil prices advanced almost 1 percent overnight.

The Japanese market is rising after two days of losses, as U.S. stocks closed higher overnight and a weaker yen lifted exporters' stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 136.56 points or 0.59 percent to 23,224.38, after touching a high of 23,232.26 earlier. Japanese shares fell sharply on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is advancing almost 2 percent and Fast Retailing is adding more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher with modest gains. Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.5 percent, while Sony and Panasonic are up 0.3 percent each. Canon is lower by more than 1 percent.

In the financial sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is higher by almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is rising 0.5 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota Motor is advancing more than 1 percent and Honda is adding 0.6 percent. In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is up 0.7 percent, while Inpex is down almost 1 percent.

In the tech sector, Tokyo Electron is higher by 0.5 percent, while Advantest is down 0.4 percent.

Among the major gainers, NSK Insulators is climbing more than 8 percent, while Japan Steel Works and Nitto Denko are gaining more than 6 percent each. Suzuki Motor is rising almost 4 percent.

Conversely, Olympus Corp. is losing more than 3 percent, while West Japan Railway and East Japan Railway are lower by almost 3 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 105 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia are advancing almost 1 percent each, while South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong are also higher. Shanghai and Taiwan are little changed.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday in choppy trading following the release of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data, which added to recent uncertainty about the economic outlook. The Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected uptick in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended September 19, while the Commerce Department released a separate report unexpectedly showing another significant increase in new home sales in the U.S. in the month of August.

The Dow fell as much as 226 points and jumped as much as 331 points before ending the day up 52.31 points or 0.2 percent at 26,815.44. The Nasdaq climbed 39.28 points or 0.4 percent to 10,672.27 and the S&P 500 rose 9.67 points or 0.3 percent at 3,246.59.

The major European markets moved to the downside on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index tumbled by 1.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.8 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Thursday despite lingering worries about the energy demand outlook in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and fresh lockdown measures in several parts across Europe. WTI crude for November ended up $0.38 or almost 1 percent at $40.31 a barrel.

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