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Japanese Market Modestly Higher

The Japanese stock market recovered after a weak start and is modestly higher on Wednesday following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Nevertheless, investors remained cautious after reports indicated the Japanese government plans to expand the nation's second state of emergency to seven more prefectures as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in areas beyond Tokyo.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 35.10 points or 0.12 percent to 28,199.44, after touching a low of 28,133.59 in early trades. The Japanese market ended on a flat note Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is rising more than 3 percent, while Fast Retailing is edging down 0.1 percent. In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is higher by more than 3 percent and Advantest is advancing more than 2 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher despite a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric is higher by 0.6 percent, Canon is adding 0.3 percent and Panasonic is up 0.1 percent, while Sony is lower by almost 1 percent.

Among automakers, Honda is adding 0.7 percent, while Toyota is declining 1 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is up 0.1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Showa Denko and Tokai Carbon are gaining more than 6 percent each, while ENEOS Holdings and Inpex are rising more than 4 percent each.

Conversely, Toho Co. is tumbling more than 7 percent and Olympus Corp. is losing almost 5 percent. Hitachi Zosen and Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma are lower by almost 3 percent each.

On the economic front, Japan will see December numbers for machine tool orders today.

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

On Wall Street, stocks ended slightly higher on Tuesday after a somewhat lackluster session, as investors largely refrained from making significant moves. Political tensions in the U.S. and worries about rising coronavirus cases weighed on stocks, while optimism about another big fiscal stimulus pushed up prices. Investors were also looking ahead to quarterly earnings reports.

The Dow ended the day with a gain of 60 points or 0.19 percent at 31,068.69, after rising to a high of 31,114.56. The S&P 500 edged up 1.58 points or 0.04 percent to settle at 3,801.19, while the Nasdaq closed up by 36 points or 0.28 percent at 13,072.43.

The major European markets closed lower on Tuesday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended lower by 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX slipped 0.8 percent and France's CAC 40 edged down 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Tuesday, lifting the most actively traded oil futures contract to their best close in about 11 months. WTI crude for February ended up by $0.96 or about 1.8 percent at $53.21 a barrel.

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