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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

asiancommentary dec17 07jan21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday, extending gains from the previous session following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street as U.S. lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Investors are optimistic that Democratic control of the Senate will enable Biden to implement additional fiscal stimulus.

The Australian market is extending gains to a second day following the overnight rally on Wall Street. Nevertheless, investors turned cautious as Australia's Queensland state declared a compulsory three-day lockdown from Friday evening after a case of the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19 was detected in the state.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 17.50 points or 0.26 percent to 6,729.50, after touching a high of 6,739.70. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 17.90 points or 0.26 percent to 6,998.40. Australian shares closed notably higher on Thursday.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are higher in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent, while Westpac is rising more than 1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is rising more than 2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent and Santos is adding almost 1 percent crude oil prices extended gains to a third session overnight.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is lower by almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto declining almost 1 percent and BHP Group is down 0.5 percent.

Gold miners are extending losses even as gold prices rebounded overnight. Evolution Mining is lower by 0.6 percent and Newcrest Mining is down 0.5 percent.

The Japanese market is notably higher as U.S. stocks closed at record highs overnight. Upbeat Japanese household spending data also boosted sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is rising 387.26 points or 1.41 percent to 27,877.39, after touching a high of 27,921.97. Japanese stocks hit a 30-year high on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding 0.7 percent and Fast Retailing is rising more than 2 percent. In the tech space, Tokyo Electron and Advantest are gaining more than 3 percent each.

The major exporters are modestly higher on a weaker yen. Sony, Mitsubishi Electric, Canon and Panasonic are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is adding 0.6 percent and Honda is edging up 0.1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising more than 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is higher by almost 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Oki Electric is climbing more than 7 percent and Oji Holdings is rising almost 6 percent. Bridgestone Corp. and Fujifilm Holdings are higher by almost 5 percent each.

Conversely, Olympus Corp. is losing almost 3 percent, while Kubota Corp., Nissan Motor and Ricoh Co. are all lower by more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the average of household spending in Japan was up 1.1 percent on year in November, coming in at 278,718 yen. That beat expectations for a decline of 1.5 percent following the 1.9 percent increase in October.

Japan will also see preliminary November numbers for its coincident index today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 103 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea is rising more than 2 percent with shares of automaker Hyundai Motor Co. climbing more than 20 percent after a local media report said the company was in talks with tech giant Apple to cooperate on developing electric cars and batteries.

Singapore and Indonesia are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Taiwan and Hong Kong are adding almost 1 percent each. Shanghai, New Zealand and Malaysia are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs on Thursday as U.S. lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory and as the Democrats won Georgia's Senate runoff elections, giving Democrats control of the House, Senate and the White House. Traders seem optimistic a Democratic-controlled government will lead to additional stimulus. Buying interest was also generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended January 2.

The Nasdaq spiked 326.69 points or 2.6 percent to 13,067.48, while the Dow climbed 211.73 points or 0.7 percent to 31,041.13 and the S&P 500 jumped 55.65 points or 1.5 percent to 3,803.79.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index is up by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Thursday, extending gains to a third straight session, with the recent data showing a drop in stockpiles continuing to support prices. WTI crude for February ended up $0.20 or about 0.4 percent at $50.83 a barrel.

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