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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

asiancommentary dec21 18feb21 lt

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street as a report showing U.S. initial jobless claims rose more than expected stoked worries about the fragile economic recovery. Concerns about rising inflation also weighed on the markets.

The Australian market is declining following the negative cues from Wall Street. Investors also turned cautious as they digested mixed corporate earnings results as well as news that Victoria has recoded three coronavirus cases after ending a snap five-day lockdown.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 47.10 points or 0.68 percent to 6,838.80, after touching a low of 6,838.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 46.40 points or 0.65 percent to 7,109.10. Australian stocks swung between gains and losses before ending on a flat note Thursday.

The major miners are weak. Fortescue Metals is lower by more than 2 percent, Rio Tinto is declining almost 2 percent and BHP Group is down almost 1 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices declined overnight. Woodside Petroleum is sliding more than 3 percent, Oil Search is declining more than 2 percent and Santos is lower by 1 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and National Australia Bank are lower by more than 1 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is down 0.5 percent. ANZ Banking is adding 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, tech stocks are mostly higher. Afterpay is gaining more than 5 percent and WiseTech Global is adding 0.4 percent, while Appen is down almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed even as gold prices snapped a four-session losing streak to close higher. Evolution Mining is sliding almost 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is edging up 0.2 percent.

Shares of Inghams Group are gaining more than 3 percent after the poultry producer said its first-half profit rose 34 percent and it declared a higher interim dividend.

QBE Insurance reported a loss of $1.5 billion for the full year and has elected not to declare a final dividend. The company's shares are adding 0.2 percent.

The Japanese market is losing for the third straight day after U.S. stocks closed lower overnight. Worries about inflation also weighed on the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 255.53 points or 0.85 percent to 29,980.56, after touching a low of 29,970.59 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding 0.4 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing more than 2 percent and Toyota is lower by almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 2 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down 0.3 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are declining more than 1 percent each, while Canon and Sony are down 0.2 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, Nissan Chemical is gaining almost 4 percent, while Hitachi Zosen and Taiheiyo Cement are rising more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Sharp Corp. is losing more than 5 percent, Inpex is lower by more than 4 percent and Takara Holdings is declining almost 4 percent.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are declining more than 1 percent each, while Shanghai and New Zealand are lower by almost 1 percent each. Indonesia and Malaysia are modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks climbed well off their worst levels, but still closed lower on Thursday. A negative reaction to earnings news from retail giant Walmart and the release of a Labor Department report showing initial jobless claims came in well above economist estimates in the week ended February 13 contributed to the weakness in the markets.

The Dow fell 119.68 points or 0.4 percent to 31,493.34, the Nasdaq slid 100.14 points or 0.7 percent to 13,865.36 and the S&P 500 dropped 17.36 points or 0.4 percent to 3,913.97.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.7 percent and the German DAX Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures settled lower on Thursday amid prospects of OPEC increasing crude production. WTI crude for March delivery slid $0.62 or about 1 percent to $60.52 a barrel after ending the previous session at its highest closing level in over a year.

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