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Asian Markets Mostly Higher Amid Cautious Trades

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher in cautious trading on Thursday, recouping some of the losses of the previous two sessions, following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. The markets are also benefiting from some bargain hunting after two successive days of losses.

However, markets in the region continue to be tense and cautious amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases in the region and possibility of coronavirus-related lockdowns in some markets, which is casting doubts about an early economic rebound from the pandemic. Asian markets closed sharply lower on Wednesday.

The Australian stock market is modestly higher in choppy trading on Thursday, recouping some of the losses of the previous two sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 back above the 7,000 mark just off its 14-month highs, following positive cues overnight from Wall Street. The market is primarily boosted by gold miners, offsetting weakness in materials and energy stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 30.50 points or 0.44 percent to 7,028.00, after touching a high of 7,033.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 27.00 points or 0.37 percent to 7,285.90. Australian markets ended modestly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group is flat, while Rio Tinto is edging up 0.3 percent and Fortescue Metals is losing more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices tumbled overnight. Oil Search and Beach Energy are losing almost 2 percent each, while Santos is declining almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down more than 1 percent.

Gas giant Santos reported that its first-quarter revenue grew 9.2 percent to US$964 million or A$$1.24 billion on Improved commodity prices, with the firm expecting strong LNG prices to continue. Production was up 39 percent from last year to 24.8 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Woodside Petroleum reported first-quarter revenues of US$1.12 billion or A$1.44 billion, up 4.2 percent from last year. Sales volumes also grew 8 percent to 25.7 million barrels of oil equivalent. Meanwhile, production declined 2 percent to 23.7 MMboe from last year.

Among Tech stocks, Appen is losing more than 2 percent, while Afterpay and WiseTech Global are edging up 0.5 percent each.

Among the big four banks, Westpac is flat, ANZ Banking is edging down 0.3 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is edging up 0.4 percent. National Australia Bank is edging down 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are higher after gold prices climbed. Evolution Mining, Gold Road Resources and Newcrest Mining are gaining almost 2 percent each, while Northern Star Resources is up almost 5 percent. Resolute Mining is edging down 0.5 percent.

Shares in Redbubble are plunging almost 22 percent after the online retail and art marketplace missed expectations on marketplace revenue, gross margins, and operating earnings for the third quartyer ending March 31.

AMP reported net quarterly cash outflows of $1.5 billion from its wealth management business and $1.3 billion in outflows from AMP Capital, as the financial services company continues to deal with the impact of leadership instability. Shares are down almost 3 percent.

Shares in AGL are declining more than 4 percent after the utility firm's chief executive Brett Redman abruptly resigned with immediate effect after two-and-a-half years at its helm, ahead of its coal break-up plans.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.776 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Thursday, recouping some of the sharp losses of the previous two sessions, with the Nikkei 225 gaining nearly 600 points to break above the 29,000 mark, following positive cues overnight from Wall Street. However, worries about possible coronavirus-related lockdowns in major cities amid the continuing surge in coronavirus cases is weighing on sentiment and limiting the markets' upside.

Japan reported nationwide daily infections of topped 5000 for the first time in three months. The country's government is mulling fresh coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo as well as Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures on Friday.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,099.93, up 591.38 points or 2.07 percent, after touching a high of 29,110.27 earlier. Japanese shares ended sharply lower on Wednesday.

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

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining more than 3 percent, while Screen Holdings and Tokyo Electron are adding more than 4 percent each. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is flat and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.5 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric is gaining more than 3 percent, Sony is edging up 0.5 percent, Canon is adding more than 1 percent and Panasonic is adding almost 2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Mitsui OSK Lines and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha are adding almost 5 percent each, while JFT Holdings and Olympus are up almost 4 percent each. Nippon Yusen, Sumco, Kikkoman, Nippon Steel, Rakuten, Chugai Pharmaceuticals and Terumo are adding more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, there are not many losers.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading around the 108 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, . Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, New Zealand and Hong Kong are all advancing between 0.1 and 0.7 percent each. Shanghai is bucking the trend and is edging down.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a strong move back to the upside during trading on Wednesday following the pullback seen over the two previous sessions. The major averages saw initial weakness but climbed firmly into positive territory as the day progressed.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, ending the session near their best levels of the day. The Dow jumped 316.01 points or 0.9 percent to 34,137.31, the Nasdaq surged up 163.95 points or 1.2 percent to 13,950.22 and the S&P 500 advanced 38.48 points or 0.9 percent to 4,173.42.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures declined sharply on Wednesday amid rising concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to rising coronavirus infections in India. Data showing an unexpected uptick in U.S. crude inventories also weighed on oil prices. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June fell $1.32 or 2.1 percent at $61.35 a barrel, the lowest close since April 13.

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