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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

asiancommentary jan15 24jan21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday despite the mixed cues from Wall Street Friday. Optimism about the prospects for additional stimulus in the U.S. as well as upbeat corporate earnings results helped offset worries about the rising number of coronavirus cases around the world.

The Australian market is modestly higher. Investor sentiment received a boost following news that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in Australia, with the phased vaccine rollout set to commence in late February.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 11.20 points or 0.16 percent to 6,811.60, after touching a high of 6,827.40. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 15.00 points or 0.21 percent to 7,093.90. The Australian market closed lower on Friday.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is gaining more than 3 percent, Rio Tinto is advancing 1 percent and BHP Group is adding almost 1 percent.

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

In the tech space, Appen is rising almost 2 percent, Afterpay is advancing more than 1 percent and WiseTech Global is adding 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices fell on Friday. Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are declining more than 1 percent each, while Santos is down almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices dropped on Friday. Newcrest Mining is losing more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is down 0.7 percent.

The Japanese market is rising in choppy trading following the mixed cues from Wall Street Friday and as investors shifted focus to the corporate earnings season in Japan.

New that new coronavirus cases in Tokyo dropped below 1,000 for the first time in twelve days and Japan's coronavirus cases daily tally fell below 4,000 boosted sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 119.28 points or 0.42 percent to 28,750.73, after falling to a low of 28,566.85 in early trades. The Japanese closed lower on Friday, slipping from a 30-year high.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is declining more than 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is rising more than 1 percent. In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is advancing almost 1 percent and Advantest is adding almost 1 percent.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is higher by almost 2 percent and Canon is advancing more than 1 percent, while Sony is losing more than 2 percent and Panasonic is declining almost 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining 0.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing almost 1 percent and Toyota is edging lower by 0.1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Nikon Corp. is rising more than 6 percent and Sumitomo Chemical is higher by more than 5 percent. Asahi Kasei and Ube Industries are advancing more than 4 percent each.

Conversely, Sharp Corp. and Kubota Corp. are losing more than 3 percent each, while Casio Computer is lower by almost 3 percent and Kobe Steel is declining more than 2 percent.

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

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

On Wall Street, stocks showed a notable move to the downside at the start of trading on Friday, but managed to regain ground over the course of the session and close mixed. Profit taking contributed to the initial weakness on Wall Street, as some traders looked to cash in on the recent run to new record highs. Selling pressure waned over the course of the session, however, as traders shrugged off uncertainty about President Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

While the Nasdaq inched up 12.15 points or 0.1 percent to a record closing high of 13,543.06, the Dow slid 179.03 points or 0.6 percent to 30,996.98 and the S&P 500 fell 11.60 points or 0.3 percent to 3,841.47.

The major European markets moved to the downside on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index edged down by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices slid on Friday after data showed a notable rise in U.S. crude inventories in the week ended January 15 and rising coronavirus cases and lockdown measures in several places raised concerns about the outlook for energy demand. WTI crude dropped $0.86 or about 1.6 percent to $52.27 a barrel.

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