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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

asianmarkets3 dec19 21jan21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday, tracking the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street and following the recent strong gains leading up to U.S. President Joe Biden's inauguration. Optimism about ramped up efforts to combat the coronavirus and more stimulus under the new Biden administration have helped to prop up the markets in recent days.

The Australian market is declining after three days of gains and following the mixed cues from Wall Street. Investors also turned cautious as they digested mixed Australian economic data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 10.60 points or 0.16 percent to 6,813.10, after touching a low of 6,809.00. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 12.40 points or 0.17 percent to 7,094.70. The Australian market closed at an eleven-month high on Thursday.

Oil stocks are notably lower after crude oil prices declined overnight. Oil Search and Santos are losing more than 2 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is lower by more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Afterpay is losing more than 4 percent and Appen is down 0.3 percent, while WiseTech Global is adding almost 1 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are declining more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is down 0.3 percent.

The big four banks - National Australia Bank, Westpac, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank - are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is adding 0.2 percent, while Evolution Mining is down 0.1 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total value of retail sales in Australia were down a seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent on month in December, coming in at A$30.324 billion. That missed expectations for a decline of 2.5 percent following the 7.1 percent jump in November.

The manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in January, and at a faster rate, Markit Economics said in Friday's flash estimate with a PMI score of 57.2. That's up from 55.7 in December and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The Japanese market is losing after rising to a 30-year high in the previous session and following the mixed cues from Wall Street. Weak Japanese economic data also weighed on the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 111.93 points or 0.39 percent to 28,644.93, after falling to a low of 28,527.16 in early trades.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is declining more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is edging down 0.1 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is lower by more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a slightly weaker yen. Sony is losing almost 2 percent, Canon is declining more than 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down almost 1 percent, while Panasonic is rising almost 4 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining 0.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.3 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing almost 1 percent and Toyota is lower by 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Shiseido Corp. is gaining almost 5 percent after Bloomberg reported that the cosmetics maker is in advanced talks to sell its shampoo and affordable skincare business to CVC Capital Partners for up to 200 billion yen.

Nikon Corp. is higher by more than 4 percent and Sharp Corp. is rising almost 4 percent.

Conversely, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is losing almost 3 percent, while T&D Holdings, Japan Steel Works, Kyowa Kirin and MS&AD Insurance are lower by more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed that the manufacturing sector slipped into contraction in December, with a manufacturing PMI score of 49.7. That's down from November's reading that was right on the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Overall consumer prices in Japan were down 1.2 percent on year in December, following the 0.9 percent decline in November. Core consumer prices were down 1.0 percent on year after also slipping 0.9 percent in the previous month.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Thursday in choppy trading, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed at record highs. The choppy trading came as traders expressed some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following the run to record highs. Optimism about ramped up efforts to combat the coronavirus and more stimulus under new President Joe Biden have helped to prop up the markets.

While the Nasdaq climbed 73.67 points or 0.6 percent to 13,530.92, the S&P 500 inched up 1.22 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 3,853.07 and the Dow edged down 12.37 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 31,176.01.

The major European markets moved to the downside on Thursday. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Thursday after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed an increase in U.S. crude stockpiles last week. WTI crude for March delivery dipped $0.18 or about 0.3 percent to $53.13 a barrel.

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