Asian Markets Mostly Higher Amid Cautious Trades

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday, following broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday. The markets remain tense and cautious amid the surge in coronavirus cases in the region, particularly in Japan and India, as well as the possible related lockdowns in economic activity in several markets. Traders also await fresh cues from the Fed and BoJ gatherings later this week. Asian markets closed mixed on Friday.

The Australian stock market is relatively flat in chopping trading on Monday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 hovering below the 7,100 level, following broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday. The losses in gold miners and energy stocks are offset by the gains in financial and materials stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 3.00 points or 0.04 percent to 7,057.70, after touching a high of 7,075.20 and low of 7,048.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 1.30 points or 0.02 percent to 7,319.40. Australian stocks closed marginally higher or flat on Friday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group and Mineral Resources are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Rio Tinto is gaining almost 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is up more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are lower, with oil Search and Santos flat, while Woodside Petroleum is edging down 0.2 percent.

The big four banks are higher. National Australia Bank is gaining more than 1 percent and Westpac is adding almost 1 percent, while ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are edging up 0.3 percent each.

Westpac reported that its first-half profit will take a $282 million hit from provisions for refunds and litigation, write-downs and various other 'notable items.' The lender also added that It had made a $288 million gain on the revaluation of its minority stake in crypto-currency exchange Coinbase.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is gaining almost 1 percent, while WiseTech Global is edging down 0.3 percent and Appen is losing almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are lower after gold prices softened on Friday. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are losing more than 2 percent, while Star Resources is down almost 2 percent.

Shares in nib Holdings are soaring more than 12 percent after the health insurer reinstated profit guidance for the first time since pandemic lockdowns began. The company predicted a full year profit of between $200 million and $225 million.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.778 on Monday.

Japanese stock market is modestly higher after recouping early losses on Monday, with the Nikkei 225 just below the 29,100 level, following broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday. However, traders continue to be worried about the rising coronavirus cases and the related third state of emergency imposed in Tokyo and the three western Japan prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo since Friday.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,095.36, up 74.73 points or 0.26 percent, after hitting a low of 28,896.37 earlier. Japanese shares ended lower on Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining more than 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is flat. Among automakers, Honda is gaining almost 2 percent and Toyota is edging up 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are mixed. Panasonic is gaining almost 1 percent and Canon is up almost 2 percent, while Sony is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.4 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.1 percent, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is also edging up 0.4 percent and Mizuho Financial is gaining more than 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, ANA Holdings and Rakuten are gaining more than 4 percent each, while Central Japan Railway, Mitsui E&S Holdings and West Japan Railway are adding almost 3 percent each. Screen Holdings and IHI are up more than 2 percent each.

Conversely, M3 is losing more than 6 percent, while Daiichi Sankyo and Chugai Pharmaceutical are down almost 3 percent each. Nichirei, Kao, JTEKT and Fujitsu are declining almost 2 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 107 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan is up 1 percent each, while China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are higher by between 0.1 and 0.6 percent. Meanwhile, Indonesia is bucking the trend and is lower by 0.6 percent. Markets in New Zealand are closed for ANZAC Day.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a strong move back to the upside during trading on Friday after coming under pressure over the course of the previous session. The major averages all moved to the upside on the day, although the Dow underperformed its counterparts.

The major averages pulled back off their highs going into the close but remained firmly positive. The Dow climbed 227.59 points or 0.7 percent to 34,043.49, while the Nasdaq surged up 198.40 points or 1.4 percent to 14,016.81 and the S&P 500 jumped 45.19 points or 1.1 percent to 4,180.17.

Meanwhile, European stocks climbed off their worst levels of the day but still closed mostly lower. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed nearly unchanged, the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.2 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Friday, lifted by buoyant demand for energy in the U.S. despite a weak global outlook. West Texas Intermediate Crude futures for June ended up by $0.71 or 1.2 percent at $62.14 a barrel. WTI crude futures shed 1.7 percent in the week.

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