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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Cautious Trades

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Tuesday, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders also continue to be cautious amid the surge in coronavirus cases in the region and the possible restrictions on economic activity in several markets. Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Monday.

The Australian stock market is modestly lower on Tuesday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,000 mark, following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street. Stocks across all sectors are trading weak.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 23.10 points or 0.33 percent to 7,042.50, after hitting a low of 7,030.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 19.00 points or 0.26 percent to 7,309.00. Australian markets ended flat with a positive bias on Monday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is edging up 0.1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is flat. Rio Tinto and OZ Minerals are edging up 0.4 percent each.

Rio Tinto reported a 7 percent growth from last year in Pilbara iron ore shipments to 77.8 million tonnes on 100% basis for the first quarter. However, production was down 2 percent to 76.4 million tonnes on 100% basis.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search and Santos are edging up 0.3 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is edging down 0.3 percent. Origin Energy is edging down 0.1 percent.

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

Among tech stocks, Afterpay and WiseTech Global are edging down 0.4 percent each, while Appen is losing more than 2 percent.

Afterpay said it is considering a US listing and also reported a 104 percent surge in Q3 underlying sales to A$5.2 billion.

Gold miners are mixed, with Newcrest Mining losing almost 1 percent and Northern Star Resources edging down 0.5 percent, while Evolution Mining is edging up 0.4 percent.

Shares in Challenger are slipping 11 percent after the retirement income and investment manager told investors normalised profit for the full-year 2021 is now expected nearer to the bottom of its $390 million to $440 million guidance range.

Biotech firm Exopharm confirmed it would raise $12 million from wholesale investors with shares at 72 cents each. Shares fell more than 9 percent.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank of Australia released the minutes from its monetary policy meeting on April 6. At the meeting, the bank kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged at the record low of 0.10 percent. The central bank retained the target yield on the 3-year Australian government bond at around 0.1 percent.

Members of the RBA's monetary policy board said that the country's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was proceeding more quickly than anticipated. In fact, the global economy in general was starting to pick up steam, supported by the improved rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.779 on Tuesday.

The Japanese stock market is significantly lower on Tuesday, with the benchmark Nikkei index dropping more than 500 points to fall below the 29,200 level, following the weak cues overnight from Wall Street. The market is weighed down by weakness across all sectors as the government enhances their response to tackle the surging coronavirus cases. Authorities in Tokyo and Osaka are considering renewed curbs to stop the spread.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,150.71, down 534.66 points or 1.80 percent, after hitting a low of 29,082.40 earlier. Japanese shares closed little changed on Monday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing more than 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is down almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is down more than 2 percent and Toyota is losing almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is down almost 2 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging down 0.5 percent.

The major exporters are weak, with Panasonic losing more than 2 percent and Sony down almost 2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric and Canon are declining more than 1 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, CyberAgent is gaining almost 2 percent and Shiseido is adding almost 1 percent.

Conversely, Marui Group is losing almost 5 percent, while Casio Computer, NTN, Hitachi Construction Machinery and Mazda Motor are down more than 4 percent each. IHI is down almost 1 percent, while Toho, Kikkoman, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, TOYO Seikan, Konami Holdings, Komatsu, Nikon and Okuma are all declining more than 3 percent each.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand is losing 1.4 percent, while Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan are down between 0.1 and 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, South Korea and China are bucking the trend and are higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed weak on Monday, coming off historic highs hit in the previous session, as investors largely stayed cautious amid a lack of triggers, and looked ahead to more earnings news and economic data. Further, geopolitical concerns about spikes in coronavirus cases in several countries raised uncertainty about the pace of global economic recovery, contributing to the lackluster movements in the market.

The major averages all ended in negative territory. The Dow ended down 123.04 points or 0.36 percent at 34,077.63. The S&P 500 closed lower by 22.21 points or 0.53 percent at 4,163.26 and the tech-laden Nasdaq ended down 137.58 points or 0.98 percent at 13,914.77.

Meanwhile, the major European markets closed on a mixed note on the day with investors largely making cautious moves. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 slid 0.28%, Germany's DAX shed 0.59%, while France's CAC 40 gained 0.15%.

Crude oil futures ended higher Monday as prices moved higher amid expectations of a drop in global crude supply. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May ended higher by $0.25 or 0.4 percent at $63.38 a barrel.

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