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Asian Markets Mixed Amid Pandemic Woes

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Thursday, following thin trading in the previous three sessions due to holiday's in couple of major markets, as concerns remain about the continuing surge in daily coronavirus cases in most markets in the region and the related restrictions or lockdown in several areas restricting economic activity. Asian markets closed mixed in thin trading on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen eased market concerns of a rate hike after she clarified that she was neither predicting nor recommending a rate increase. Yellen had suggested yesterday that interest rates may have to rise modestly to prevent the economy from overheating amid the recent spike in government spending.

The Australian stock market is modestly lower after giving up early gains on Thursday and after the previous three sessions of gains, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,100 level off its fresh 14-month highs reached yesterday, as strength in materials and energy stocks were offset by weakness across the technology and financial sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 24.10 points or 0.34 percent to 7,071.70, after touching a high of 7,112.50 and a low of 7,048.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 25.50 points or 0.33 percent to 7,318.70. Australian markets ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group is gaining almost 3 percent, Rio Tinto is adding almost 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is up more than 2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is edging up 0.3 percent, while Santos and Woodside Petroleum are adding almost 1 percent each. Beach Energy is up more than 1 percent.

Among Tech stocks, Appen is losing more than 5 percent, Afterpay is down almost 3 percent and WiseTech Global is edging down 0.2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and ANZ Banking are edging down 0.4 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is losing almost 1 percent. National Australia Bank is down more than 2 percent after it reported a 48.1 percent surge in cash earnings for the first half to $3.3 billion. It also will pay shareholders an interim dividend of 60 cents.

Gold miners are lower after gold prices tumbled. Evolution Mining, Resolute Mining and Northern Star Resources are losing almost 2 percent each, while Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.5 percent.

Shares in Nearmap are plummeting more than 16 percent after the aerial mapping firm said it will vigorously defend itself against legal action by US rival Eagleview , which accused it of patent infringement relating to aerial roof reports.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.772 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Thursday, coming back after three days of holiday's, with the Nikkei 225 gaining nearly 600 points to break above the 29,000 mark, on positive comments on the state of the economy by members of the Bank of Japan's monetary policy board. However, worries about the continuing surge in coronavirus cases are limiting the markets' upside.

Members of the Bank of Japan's monetary policy board said that the country's economy is showing signs of inconsistent improvement but continues to be threatened by COVID-19, minutes from the bank's meeting on March 18 and 19 revealed on Thursday. At the meeting, the bank widened the range at which it permits the yields of government bonds to fluctuate and scrapped the average exchange traded fund buying target and also maintained its benchmark lending rate at -0.1 percent.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,391.19, up 578.56 points or 2.01 percent, after touching a high of 29,430.22 earlier. Japanese shares ended significantly lower on Friday, the last trading before holiday's.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining almost 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding almost 3 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are gaining more than 3 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 3 percent, Screen Holdings is down more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is declining almost 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is gaining more than 5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding more than 4 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Sony is edging down 0.4 percent and Canon is losing almost 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is gaining more than 8 percent, while Mitsui & Co., Nippon Steel and JFE Holdings are adding almost 8 percent. Oji Holdings, Kobe Steel and JTEKT are up almost 7 percent each, while Pacific Metals, Japan Exchange Group, Sumitomo Metal Mining and Daiwa Securities are all rising more than 6 percent each.

Conversely, Sumco is losing more than 4 percent, while Z Holdings, Rakuten and Nexon are down almost 3 percent.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, . New Zealand and Malaysia are losing 0.9 percent, while Shanghai and Indonesia are down between 0.1 and 0.3 percent each. Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are advancing between 0.3 and 0.6 percent each. Hong Kong is trading flat.

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Wednesday before eventually ending the session mixed. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow ended the session at a new record closing high.

The major averages finished the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq fell 51.08 points or 0.4 percent to 13,582.43, the Dow rose 97.31 points or 0.3 percent to 34,230.34 and the S&P 500 inched up 2.93 points or 0.1 percent to 4,167.59.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all showed strong moves to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index surged 2.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index jumped 1.7 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures dipped slightly on Wednesday as traders weighed global energy demand amid a continued surge in coronavirus cases in Asia. A sharp decline in U.S. crude inventories limited the downside. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June eased $0.06 at $65.63 a barrel.

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