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Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Friday, despite the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street amid strong data releases, stellar earnings from U.S. banks and a dip in long term bond yields. The markets remain cautious amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases in the region and the possible restrictions on economic activity in several markets. Asian markets also ended mixed on Thursday.

The markets in the region are also tense about a fresh U.S.-China tussle after a Chinese diplomat indirectly warned the U.S. over strong linkages and interference over Hong Kong issues.

Australian stock market is modestly lower in choppy trading on Friday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 above the 7,000 mark around 14-month highs, as strong gains in gold miners and technology stocks were offset by weakness in energy and financial stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 22.40 points or 0.32 percent to 7,036.20, after touching a high of 7,066.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 19.00 points or 0.26 percent to 7,298.50. Australian markets ended higher on Thursday.

The major miners are mixed. Fortescue Metals is down more than 2 percent, while BHP Group is gaining almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is edging up 0.3 percent.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum is down more than 1 percent, Oil Search is losing almost 1 percent and Santos is declining more than 1 percent. Meanwhile, Beach energy is gaining almost 3 percent.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is edging up 0.4 percent, WiseTech Global is also edging up 0.2 percent, and Appen is gaining more than 3 percent. Xero is adding more than 1 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are all down about 0.5 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.1 percent.

ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are set be grilled in a parliamentary inquiry by the House of Representatives economics committee on Friday as part of their twice-yearly examination.

Gold miners are higher after gold climbed. Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources are gaining more than 3 percent each, while Newcrest Mining and Gold Road Resources are adding almost 4 percent. Resolute Mining is up almost 3 percent.

Coca-Cola Amatil's $10 billion takeover by Coca-Cola European Partners has got their final consent from the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office and shareholders also appear to have given the green light, with proxy votes released ahead of the company's 10 am vote meeting showing overwhelming support for the deal.

Shares in Mineral Resources are down almost 5 percent after it downgrading its export targets for the lucrative steel-making raw material iron ore by as much as 15 percent for full year to between 17.4 million and 18 million tonnes.

Shares in Mayne Pharma are surging almost 8 percent after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its contraceptive product Nextstellis, the first new estrogen-based contraceptive to be introduced to the US market in fifty years.

Banking giant Citi has put its Australian retail banking assets on the auction block, as part of a global move to focus on businesses with greater potential for growth and higher returns.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.773 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is modestly higher in choppy trading on Friday, extending gain of the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 above the 29,700 level, following broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street amid strong data releases and a dip in long term bond yields.

However, the continuing concerns about the spike in daily domestic coronavirus infections and possible restrictions on economic activity are weighing on the market.

According to media reports, Japan reported a nationwide tally of 4,576 new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the highly contagious variants drive a fourth wave of infections. The Japanese government is set to add three more prefectures neighboring Tokyo to the list of areas in need of stricter measures.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,682.66, up 39.97 points or 0.13 percent, after hitting a low of 29,621.83 and a high of 29,789.08 in early trades. Japanese shares closed slightly higher on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.2 percent, while Fast Retailing is losing almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are edging down 0.5 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are adding more than 1 percent each. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is losing almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are higher. Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are edging up about 0.5 percent each, while Canon is losing more than 1 percent and Sony is edging down 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Toho and M3 are gaining more than 2 percent each, while Yaskawa Electric, Fujitsu and Toppan Printing are adding almost 2 percent each. Impex, Japan Exchange Group, Toto, Seiko Epson, Obayashi and Daiwa House Industry are all up more than 1 percent each.

Conversely, Tokyo Electric Power, JTEKT, Seven & I Holdings, Nippon Yusen and Alps Alpine are losing almost 3 percent each. JFE Holdings, Isuzu Motors, Mitsui E&S Holdings, Screen Holdings and Sharp are declining more than 2 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 108 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Shanghai and Singapore are gaining between 0.2 and 0.6 percent each. Meanwhile, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia are all between flat and down 0.2 percent each.

On Wall Street, stocks moved sharply higher during trading on Thursday, more than offsetting the pullback seen in the previous session. The Dow and the S&P 500 reached new record closing highs, while the Nasdaq ended the day at its best closing level in two months.

The major averages reached new highs in late-day trading before giving back some ground going into the close. The Dow jumped 305.10 points or 0.9 percent to 34,035.99, the Nasdaq soared 180.92 points or 1.3 percent to 14,038.76 and the S&P 500 surged up 45.76 points or 1.1 percent to 4,170.42.

The major European markets all also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Thursday, extending gains to a fourth straight session, continuing to ride on the recent upward revision in the global oil demand forecast by the International Energy Agency. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May ended higher by $0.31 or 0.5 percent at $63.46 a barrel.

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