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Asian Markets Exhibit Mixed Trend

asiancommentary dec19 17feb21 lt

Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Thursday after Wall Street closed mostly lower overnight as largely upbeat economic data added to optimism about the economic recovery, but raised concerns about inflation. The Chinese market, which resumed trading after the Lunar New Year holidays, is notably higher.

The Australian market is modestly higher in choppy trade following the mixed cues from Wall Street and as investors digested a batch of mixed corporate earnings results. Investors also turned cautious after Facebook said it has banned all Australian news content from its platform in response to a proposed media law in the country.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 14.80 points or 0.21 percent to 6,900.00, after touching a low of 6,875.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 10.60 points or 0.15 percent to 7,169.40. Australian stocks closed lower on Wednesday after two days of gains.

The major miners are mostly higher. Fortescue Metals is rising almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is adding 0.4 percent, while BHP Group is down 0.6 percent.

Fortescue Metals reported a 66 percent surge in first-half profit and declared a higher interim dividend.

Oil stocks are mostly higher with modest gains even as crude oil prices rose sharply overnight. Oil Search is adding 0.2 percent and Santos is edging up 0.1 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is lower by more than 2 percent.

Woodside Petroleum reported a net loss for the full year reflecting writedowns, even as the company's production for the year surged to a record.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and ANZ Banking are rising more than 3 percent each, while National Australia Bank is adding 0.2 percent. Commonwealth Bank is declining more than 1 percent.

CSL reported a 44 percent surge in net profit for the first half of the year and raised its interim dividend. The biotech giant also said it has accelerated the manufacture of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and plans to release the first doses in late March. Shares of CSL are higher by more than 3 percent.

Tech stocks are mostly declining, following their U.S. peers lower. Appen is losing more than 3 percent and WiseTech Global is down 0.6 percent, while Afterpay is advancing almost 3 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices fell for a fourth straight session overnight. Evolution Mining is adding almost 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is losing more than 2 percent.

News Corp said it has reached a three-year deal with Google to provide journalism from its news sites around the world for Google News Showcase in return for significant payments by Google. Shares of News Corp. are lower by more than 1 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 6.4 percent in January. That was beneath expectations for 6.5 percent and down from 6.6 percent in December.

The Australian economy added 29,100 jobs last month - shy of forecasts for 40,000 new jobs after gaining 50,000 jobs in the previous month.

The Japanese market is modestly higher, paring early gains following the mixed lead from Wall Street amid concerns about inflation and as a stronger yen weighed on exporters' shares.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 45.13 points or 0.15 percent to 30,337.32, after touching a high of 30,560.49 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is advancing almost 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is rising more than 4 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are declining more than 1 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by almost 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining almost 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric is sliding almost 3 percent, Canon is losing almost 2 percent, Panasonic is declining more than 1 percent and Sony is down 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Chugai Pharmaceutical is rising almost 3 percent, while Takara Holdings, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, Kikkoman Corp. and Nippon Electric Glass are all higher by more than 2 percent each.

Conversely, Screen Holdings is losing more than 5 percent and Mazda Motor is lower by almost 5 percent. IHI Corp., Trend Micro, Kobe Steel, Hino Motors and Mitsui E&S Holdings are all declining more than 4 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 105 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, which resumed trading after the Lunar New Year holidays, is advancing almost 1 percent, while Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia are also higher. South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after seeing early weakness following the release of a batch of largely upbeat U.S. economic data, which painted a positive picture of the economy but also added to recent inflation concerns. Selling pressure waned over the course of the session, however, as traders remained optimistic about more stimulus and an easing of the coronavirus crisis. The minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting also signaled the central bank is likely to leave policy unchanged for the foreseeable future, offsetting concerns about the impact of inflation.

The Dow closed higher for the tenth time in the past twelve sessions, rising 90.27 points or 0.3 percent to 31,613.02. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq fell 82.00 points or 0.6 percent to 13,965.50 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.26 points or less than tenth of a percent to 3,931.33.

The major European markets all moved to the downside on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index slumped by 1.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.6 percent and the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures ended sharply higher on Wednesday amid rising concerns over likely disruptions in supply due to severe cold weather in Texas. WTI crude oil for March delivery jumped $1.09 or about 1.8 percent to $61.14 a barrel.

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