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Asian Markets Mostly Lower On China Inflation Data

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Friday, despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street, as data emerging from China showed higher than expected inflation. The markets are also cautious amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases in the region and the possible restrictions on economic activity in several markets. Asian markets ended mostly higher on Thursday.

However, the prospects of a global economic recovery following the U.S. Federal Reserve's repeated assurances that monetary policy will likely remain unchanged for the foreseeable future is limiting the downside. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell also said at Thursday's IMF Spring Meeting that the US economy is headed toward a strong recovery, aided by quickening vaccinations.

Australian stock market is modestly lower on Friday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 moving just below the 7,000 mark, as strong gains in gold miners and technology stocks were offset by weakness in materials, energy and financial stocks. Investors are also cautious amid the delay in vaccine rollouts. The cues overnight from Wall Street were positive.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 18.40 points or 0.26 percent to 6,980.40, after hitting a low of 6,965.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 12.30 points or 0.17 percent to 7,238.00. Australian markets ended higher on Thursday.

The major miners are weak. Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.1 percent, BHP Group is declining almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is losing 0.4 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices tumbling overnight. Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos are losing more than 1 percent each. Beach energy is down almost 3 percent.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is gaining more than 2 percent, WiseTech Global is edging up 0.4 percent, and Appen is also edging up 0.2 percent. Xero is adding almost 2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are down almost 1 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are higher after gold climbed. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 1 percent, Northern Star Resources is up almost 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is edging up 0.2 percent. Gold Road Resources is adding almost 2 percent. Resolute Mining is gaining more than 2 percent.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in March, and at a faster rate, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group (AIG) showed on Friday with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Services Index score of 58.7. That's up from 55.8 in February and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. It also marked the highest reading for the index since June 2018.

Further, the total number of building permits issued in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 21.6 percent on month in February - standing at 19,422, the AIG said. That was in line with expectations following the 19.4 percent slump in January. On a yearly basis, overall permits climbed 20.1 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.764 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is higher on Friday, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 breaking above the 30,000 mark earlier, following positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders are also upbeat on a global economic recovery following the U.S. Federal Reserve's repeated assurances that monetary policy will likely remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

However, traders remain concerned about a spike in daily domestic coronavirus infections and possible restrictions on economic activity.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,819.66, up 110.68 points or 0.37 percent, after touching a high of 30,064.35 in early trades. Japanese shares closed slightly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.1 percent, while Fast Retailing is losing more than 3 percent. Among automakers, Honda is edging down 0.4 percent, while Toyota is up almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is adding more than 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is flat, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging down 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are higher. Mitsubishi Electric, Canon and Panasonic are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Sony is up almost 3 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Japan Exchange Group and Olympus are gaining more than 4 percent each, while Yokogawa Electric, Konica Minolta, Fuji Electric and Sapporo Holdings are adding almost 3 percent each. Asahi Group, Terumo, Bandai Namco, Shinsei Bank, Nippon Telegraph, Yamaha and Nippon Yusen are all up more than 2 percent.

Conversely, Kobe Steel, Seven & I Holdings, T&D Holdings and Nippon Steel are losing almost 2 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 109 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are losing between 0.1 and 0.8 percent each. Meanwhile, Indonesia and Malaysia are bucking the trend and are trading higher.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday after ending the previous session little changed. The tech-heavy Nasdaq showed a particularly strong upward move, while the S&P 500 reached a new record closing high.

The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts. While the Nasdaq jumped 140.47 points or 1 percent to 13,829.31, the S&P 500 rose 17.22 points or 0.4 percent to 4,097.17 and the Dow inched up 57.31 points or 0.2 percent to 33,503.57.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.5 percent and the German DAX Index crept up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices eased on Thursday, weighed down by concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to rising coronavirus cases and lockdown measures in several countries. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for May dipped $0.17 or 0.3 percent at $59.60 a barrel.

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