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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

asiancommentary dec31 12jan21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday tracking the modest gains overnight on Wall Street amid optimism about additional U.S. fiscal stimulus.

Nevertheless, investors remained cautious as they monitored the political developments in Washington after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said he will not remove President Donald Trump from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-held chamber will vote later today to impeach Trump.

The Australian market is extending losses from the previous session despite the modest gains on Wall Street. Worries about rising coronavirus cases in the Australian state of Queensland and political tensions in the U.S. weighed on the market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 19.30 points or 0.29 percent to 6,659.80, after touching a low of 6,657.10. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 11.80 points or 0.17 percent to 6,927.30. Australian shares closed lower on Tuesday.

In the banking sector, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking are down in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent, while Westpac is adding 0.2 percent.

Tech stocks are also mostly lower. Appen and Afterpay are declining more than 1 percent each, while WiseTech Global is adding 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are notably higher after crude oil prices rose almost 2 percent overnight. Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are gaining almost 5 percent each, while Santos is higher by almost 4 percent.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto and BHP Group are adding almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is edging up 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are also rebounding even as gold prices slipped overnight. Evolution Mining is advancing more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is up 0.5 percent.

Premier Investments, an operator of specialty retail fashion chains, said it expects earnings before tax for the first half of 2021 to be 75 percent to 85 percent higher than the prior-year period. The company's shares are gaining almost 14 percent.

A group of unions have taken Qantas Airways to court, alleging that the airline manipulated rosters to keep a part of the wage subsidy payments. A December court ruling was in favor of Qantas. Shares of Qantas are declining almost1 percent.

The Japanese market recovered after a weak start and is modestly higher following the positive cues 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.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan and Malaysia are rising more than 1 percent each, while South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia are also higher. Shanghai and New Zealand are lower, while Hong Kong is little changed.

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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