Asian Markets Advance

Asian stock markets are advancing on Monday as global bonds stabilized from last week's sharp losses and sliding crude oil prices. Investors are also refocusing on vaccine rollout and the stimulus-driven global economic recovery. Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Saturday. Asian markets closed sharply lower on Friday.

The Australian stock market is advancing on Monday, recouping some of the recent loses, with the main stock index rising above the 6700 level as real estate and cyclical shares lifted the broader market. The market ended sharply lower on Friday, hitting four-week lows.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 89.80 points or 1.35 percent to 6,763.10, after touching a high of 6,777.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 74.60 points or 1.07 percent to 7,015.20. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is advancing nearly 1 percent. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are edging up nearly 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher, with Oil Search edging up 0.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos edging up 0.4 percent

Tech stocks are mixed, Afterpay gaining more than 5 percent, WiseTech Global up almost 1 percent, while Appen is declining nearly 1 percent.

The big four banks are also mostly higher. National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are higher in a range of 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is up more than 2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed, with Newcrest Mining losing nearly 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is up 0.4 percent.

Shares of Austal are up nearly 7 percent after the shipbuilder's US subsidiary was awarded a $235 million (about A$290 million) contract by the U.S. Navy to design and construction the fifteenth expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel.

Shares of Regional Express (REX) are higher by nearly 4 percent after regional airline announced the launch of more flights to Adelaide and Australia's Gold Coast by April 1, challenging heavy weights Qantas and Virgin.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in February, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics showed on Monday with a manufacturing PMI score of 56.9. That's down from January's 37-month high of 57.2, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The manufacturing sector in Australia also continued to expand in February, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Monday with a Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 58.8. That's the highest reading since March of 2018 and is up from 55.3 in January and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that company profits in Australia tumbled a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020, well shy or expectations for a decline of 4 percent following the 3,2 percent increase in the third quarter. Business inventories were flat on quarter, shy of expectations for an increase of 0.2 percent after slipping 0.3 percent in the previous three months. On a yearly basis, profits were up 15.1 percent and inventories sank 4.6 percent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also said on Monday that the total value of owner-occupied housing loans jumped a seasonally adjusted 10.9 percent on month in January, coming in at A$22.11 billion. Investment lending climbed 9.4 percent to A$6.64 billion, while overall lending rose 10.5 percent to A$28.75 billion.

The Japanese stock market is notably higher on Monday, with the benchmark Nikkei index surging above the 29,600 level, with real estate and healthcare sectors leading the rally. The market closed sharply lower by 4 percent on Friday, logging the biggest point drop since June 2016.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,621.26, up 655.25 points or 2.26 percent, after touching a high of 29,686.39 earlier.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is adding almost 5 and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is rising nearly 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is advancing almost 3 percent, while Toyota is flat.

The major exporters are also mostly higher. Panasonic is higher by almost 1 percent, while Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are advancing almost 3 percent. Canon is edging up 0.2 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 6 percent and Tokyo Electron is up more than 3 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is rising almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging up 0.1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, NTT Data is climbing more than 8 percent and Trend Micro is gaining almost 6 percent. Screen Holdings, Dai Nippon, Ricoh, Dentsu and Tokyo Tatemono are all higher by nearly 5 percent each.

Conversely, Sharp is losing almost 4 percent and Mitsui OSK Lines is lower by more than 2 percent. Tokyu, JGC Holdings, Central Japan Railway, Nippon Steel, JFE Holdings and Nippon Yusen are all declining more than 1 percent each.

In economic news, the au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing PMI was revised higher to 51.4 in February 2021, marking the first month of expansion in factory activity since April 2019 and the fastest since December 2018.That's up from a preliminary estimate of 50.6 and following a 49.8 a month earlier and moves above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. Positive sentiment reached its strongest level since July 2017.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 106 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore are edging up, while Indonesia, China and Hong Kong are also higher by 0.6 to 1.3 percent. Markets in South Korea and Taiwan are closed today.

On Wall Street, stocks saw considerable volatility over the course of the trading day on Friday, following the sell-off seen in the previous session. While a rebound by tech stocks contributed to an advance by the Nasdaq, the Dow posted a steep loss.

The Nasdaq climbed 72.91 points or 0.6 percent to 13,192.34 after ending Thursday's trading at its lowest closing level in a nearly month. Meanwhile, the Dow plunged 469.64 points or 1.5 percent to 30,932.37 and the S&P 500 fell 18.19 points or 0.5 percent to 3,811.15.

Despite the mixed performance on the day, the major averages moved notably lower for the week, with the Nasdaq plummeting 4.9 percent, the S&P 500 tumbling 2.4 percent and the Dow slumping 1.8 percent.

The major European markets also showed notable moves to the downside on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index plunged by 2.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower Friday as the dollar gained strength amid rising bond yields and solid economic data. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for April ended down $2.03 or 3.2 percent at $61.50 a barrel.

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