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Asian Markets Mostly Higher Ahead Of Biden Inauguration

asiancommentary dec24 19jan21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Investors remained optimistic about additional stimulus and a faster rollout of coronavirus vaccines under incoming U.S. President Joe Biden, who will be sworn into office later today.

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen has also called for additional stimulus to address the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session following the positive cues from Wall Street. Expectations that COVID-19 restrictions will soon be eased in New South Wales and Queensland also boosted sentiment.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 40.00 points or 0.59 percent to 6,782.60, after touching a high of 6,788.10. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 42.70 points or 0.61 percent to 7,057.70. Australia stocks closed notably higher on Tuesday.

Tech stocks are notably higher, tracking the strong gains by their U.S. peers overnight. WiseTech Global is climbing more than 6 percent, Afterpay is rising more than 5 percent and Appen is advancing almost 2 percent.

Oil stocks - Santos, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search - are all rising more than 1 percent each after crude oil prices advanced overnight.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is adding 0.7 percent and Rio Tinto is edging up 0.1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down 0.6 percent.

BHP reported a 6 percent increase in its iron ore production for the half year and raised its full-year iron ore production outlook following the restart of its Samarco joint venture operations in Brazil.

In the banking sector, Westpac is adding almost 1 percent and National Australia Bank is higher by 0.4 percent, while ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are down 0.1 percent each.

Gold miners are also mixed even as gold prices advanced overnight. Newcrest Mining is adding 0.6 percent, while Evolution Mining is down 0.2 percent.

Online retailer Kogan has been fined A$310,800 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority or ACMA for breaching the Spam Act by sending out more than 42 million spam emails to its customers. Shares of Kogan are down 0.1 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from Westpac Bank revealed that consumer confidence in Australia took a hit in January, with a consumer confidence index score of 107.0. That was down from 112.0 in December, although it remains above the line of 100 that separates optimism from pessimism.

The Japanese market slipped into negative territory after opening higher following the gains on Wall Street. Worries about the rising number of coronavirus cases and the daily death toll in Japan weighed on the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 101.07 points or 0.35 percent to 28,532.39, after touching a high of 28,801.19 in early trades. Japanese shares closed higher on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is declining almost 1 percent and Fast Retailing is lower by more than 2 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is higher by more than 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is adding almost 1 percent.

The major exporters are higher despite a stronger yen. Canon and Panasonic are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Mitsubishi Electric is up almost 1 percent and Sony is up 0.2 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining more than 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is adding 0.5 percent, while Toyota is lower by more than 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Sumitomo Chemical is gaining 8 percent, Tokyo Electric Power is rising more than 5 percent and Konica Minolta is higher by almost 5 percent.

Conversely, Z Holdings is losing more than 4 percent and Daiichi Sankyo is lower by more than 3 percent. ANA Holdings, Nomura Holdings, Keio Corp and Sompo Holdings are all lower by more than 2 percent each.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Tuesday amid continued optimism about additional stimulus as well as a faster rollout of coronavirus vaccines under incoming President Joe Biden. Traders kept an eye on remarks from Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. In prepared remarks, Yellen called for additional stimulus to address the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, arguing the government needs to "act big."

While the Nasdaq jumped 198.68 points or 1.5 percent to 13,197.18, the Dow rose 116.26 points or 0.4 percent to 30,930.52 and the S&P 500 climbed 30.66 points or 0.8 percent to 3,798.91.

Meanwhile, the major European markets showed modest moves to the downside on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index dipped by 0.2 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, riding on the dollar's weakness and expectations of more economic stimulus in the U.S. WTI crude for February delivery climbed $0.62 or about 1.2 percent to $52.98 a barrel.

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