Asian Markets Mostly Lower In Thin Holiday Trading

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower in thin holiday trading on Thursday following the mixed cues from Wall Street after a U.S. Labor Department report showed tame consumer price inflation in January and as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the U.S. is still "very far" from a strong labor market. Some of the markets in the Asian region are closed for public holidays.

The Australian market is edging lower in choppy trading following the mixed cues from Wall Street. Investors remained cautious as they digested mixed local corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 10.80 points or 0.16 percent to 6,846.10, after rising to a high of 6,875.80. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 14.60 points or 0.20 percent to 7,119.20. Australian stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals adding almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are notably higher after gold prices extended gains to a fourth straight session overnight. Newcrest Mining is gaining 5 percent and Evolution Mining is rising more than 2 percent.

Newcrest Mining reported an underlying profit for the half-year period that almost doubled from last year and also affirmed its full-year gold as well as copper forecast.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank is lower by 0.3 percent, while ANZ Banking and Westpac are down 0.2 percent each. Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.6 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly lower even as crude oil prices rose for the eighth straight session overnight. Santos is losing more than 1 percent and Oil Search is lower by 0.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent.

Wealth manager AMP reported a nearly 33 percent fall in underlying net profit for the full year and said it will not pay a final dividend. AMP added that U.S.-based Ares Management will not be proceeding with it's A$1.85 per share takeover bid for the company. Shares of AMP are tumbling more than 9 percent.

Energy generator and retailer AGL Energy reported a hefty loss of A$2.3 billion for the six-month period, but affirmed its outlook for full-year underlying profit. The company's shares are adding 0.5 percent.

Telstra Corp. reported a 2 percent decrease in first-half profit and said it will pay an interim dividend. The telecom company's shares are rising more than 2 percent.
In economic news, Australia will see February's inflation forecast from the Melbourne Institute today.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong are also lower, while Indonesia and Malaysia are modestly higher.

Some of the regional bourses are closed on Thursday for the Lunar New Year, including South Korea, Taiwan and China. Japan is also shuttered in observance of National Foundation Day.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday in another choppy trading session after initially moving to the upside on the heels of upbeat earnings news from big-name companies like Twitter, Coca-Cola, and Lyft. Buying interest waned shortly after the start of trading, however, as traders expressed some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets. Traders may also have been worried that the markets became overbought as a new fiscal stimulus bill continues to slowly work its way through Congress.

The Dow rose 61.96 points or 0.2 percent to 31,437.80, while the Nasdaq fell 35.16 points or 0.3 percent to 13,972.53 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.35 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 3,909.88.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the downside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.4 percent and the German DAX Index slid by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday, with the most active crude futures contracts extending their gain to an eighth straight session after data showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories. Crude for March delivery rose $0.32 or about 0.6 percent to $58.68 a barrel.

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