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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Cautious Trades

asiancommentary aug16 09dec20 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday following the negative cues from Wall Street after a sell-off in tech stocks. Investors remained cautious as they monitored the slowing progress of U.S. stimulus talks and a stalemate in Brexit negotiations.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to continue talks over the next few days.

The Australian market is declining after seven straight days of gains as U.S. stocks closed lower overnight. Investors also digested news that the Australian government's controversial cashless welfare scheme has been extended for another two years.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 28.40 points or 0.42 percent to 6,700.10, after touching a low of 6,684.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 29.50 points or 0.42 percent to 6,935.90. Australian stocks closed higher for the seventh straight session on Wednesday.

Tech stocks are notably lower after their U.S. peers fell overnight. Appen is sliding more than 12 percent, while WiseTech Global and Afterpay are losing more than 2 percent each.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices extended losses overnight. Oil Search is losing almost 1 percent, Santos is declining 0.6 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down 0.5 percent.

Gold miners are notably lower after gold prices fell overnight. Evolution Mining is tumbling more than 4 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining more than 2 percent.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is rising 3 percent, while Rio Tinto is lower by 0.4 percent and BHP Group is down 0.3 percent.

The Northern Australia Committee, in an interim report into Rio Tinto's destruction of the Jukaan Gorge Caves, has called up on the mining giant to negotiate compensation with the traditional owners of the site as well as reconstruct and remediate the site.

The big four banks are mixed. National Australia Bank is adding 0.6 percent and Commonwealth Bank is up 0.2 percent, while ANZ Banking is lower by 0.3 percent and Westpac is down 0.2 percent.

In economic news, Australia will see December consumer inflation expectations from the Melbourne Institute today.

The Japanese market is modestly lower following the negative cues from Wall Street after a sell-off in tech stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 81.76 points or 0.30 percent to 26,736.18, after falling to a low of 26,639.98 earlier. The Japanese market closed at a near 30-year high on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining almost 5 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining almost 1 percent.

Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that SoftBank Group is considering going private by gradually buying back outstanding shares until founder Masayoshi Son has a big enough stake to squeeze out remaining investors.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is down more than 2 percent after their U.S. peers fell overnight.

The major exporters are mostly lower. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent, Sony is declining almost 1 percent and Panasonic is down 0.6 percent, while Canon is rising more than 2 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is advancing more than 1 percent and Honda is adding 0.2 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is rising 0.5 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is unchanged.

Among the other major gainers, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is gaining more than 6 percent, Konica Minolta is rising more than 5 percent and Kawasaki Heavy Industries is higher by more than 4 percent.

Conversely, Taiyo Yuden, Screen Holdings, Trend Micro and Sumco Corp. are losing more than 3 percent each.

On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that producer prices in Japan were down 2.2 percent on year in November, in line with expectations following the 2.1 percent decline in October. Export prices were flat on month and down 2.1 percent on year in November, while import prices rose 0.5 percent on month and plummeted 10.6 percent on year.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 104 yen-range on Thursday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks retreated after posting fresh intraday highs on Wednesday and ended the session notably lower due to a sell-off in technology shares. Investors were tracking the developments on the fiscal stimulus front, and the updates on the coronavirus vaccine front. Profit taking after recent gains also contributed to the market's fall.

The Dow ended with a loss of 105.07 points or 0.35 percent at 30,068.81, after hitting a high of 30,319.70. The S&P 500, which spurted to 3,712.39, ended the day at 3,672.82, losing 29.43 points or 0.79 percent, while the Nasdaq slumped 243.82 points or 1.94 percent to settle at 12,338.95, way off a record high of 12,607.14 touched in early trades.

The major European markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday. Germany, the U.K., and Switzerland closed positive, while France drifted lower.

Crude oil futures settled slightly lower on Wednesday, weighed down by data showing a sharp increase in crude oil stockpiles in the U.S. in the week ended October 4. WTI crude for January settled at $45.52 a barrel, down $0.08 or about 0.2 percent from previous close.

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