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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street on better-than-expected weekly labor market data and the ongoing surge in commodity prices. The mood is quite cautious in most of the markets in the region amid doubts about an early economic rebound due to the continuing surge in daily coronavirus in the region and the possibility of lockdowns in several areas. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

Australian stock market is modestly higher on Friday, recouping some of the losses of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,100 level at near 14-month highs, following broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Increased tensions with China and pandemic concerns in Sydney are weighing on the market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 20.80 points or 0.30 percent to 7,082.50, after touching a high of 7,101.20 and a low of 7,054.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 19.20 points or 0.26 percent to 7,325.20. Australian markets ended modestly lower on Thursday.

The major miners are higher. Fortescue Metals is gaining almost 1 percent, while BHP Group and Rio Tinto are edging up 0.4 percent each.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.4 percent and Beach energy is gaining almost 4 percent, while Oil Search and Santos are edging down 0.4 percent each.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is losing almost 3 percent, WiseTech Global is down almost 1 percent and Xero is declining more than 1 percent, while Appen is gaining almost 7 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac is flat and ANZ Banking edging down 0.2 percent, while National Australia Bank is edging up 0.5 percent. Commonwealth Bank is gaining almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are higher after gold priced climbed. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 3 percent, Northern Star Resources is adding almost 3 percent and Gold Road Resources is up almost 4 percent. Newcrest Mining is rising more than 2 percent and Resolute Mining is up almost 1 percent.

In other news, shares in News Corp are gaining almost 3 percent after the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media company reporting a 3 percent rise in quarterly revenue to $3.01 billion and said it is on track to report its most profitable financial year since 2013.

Macquarie Group reported that full-year profits grew 10 percent to $3.02 billion, but total assets under management fell 6 percent to $563.5 billion from last year. The company also said it will pay shareholders a 40 percent franked final dividend of $3.35 per share. The stock is up almost 1 percent.

Shares in Nuix are plunging more than 4 percent after the data forensic firm downgrade its revenue forecast despite signing up new customers at a faster clip.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in April, and at a faster rate, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Friday, with a Performance of Services Index score of 61.0. That's up from 58.7 in March and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. It also marked the highest reading for the index since June 2018.

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

The Japanese stock market is modestly higher after recouping early losses on Friday, extending the sharp gains of the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 above the 29,400 level, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Continuing concerns about the spike in daily domestic coronavirus infections and possible lockdowns are weighing on the market.

According to media reports, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the situation in the capital has not improved enough to lift the state of emergency as plans are afloat to expand and extend the ongoing pandemic-related state of emergency.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,414.00, up 82.63 points or 0.28 percent, after touching a high of 29,449.86 and a low of 29,237.36 earlier. Japanese shares closed sharply higher on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging up 0.5 percent, while Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is losing almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is edging up 0.4 percent and Toyota is flat.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining almost 2 percent, Tokyo Electron is adding almost 3 percent and Screen Holdings is up more than 3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are adding almost 1 percent each.

The major exporters are mixed. Mitsubishi Electric and Canon are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Panasonic is edging down 0.3 percent and Sony is losing almost 2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Shinsei Bank, Toho Zinc, Fukuoka Financial, Takara Holdings and Tokuyama are gaining more than 3 percent each. Hitachi Construction, NTN, Mitsui E&S Holdings, Asahi Group, Pacific Metals, Showa Denko, Shimizu and Nippon Express are all adding almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Kyowa Kirin is losing almost 3 percent, while M3, Nomura Holdings and Keio Corp. are down more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the services sector in Japan continued to contract in April, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed on Friday with a services PMI score of 49.5. That's up from 48.3 in March, although it remains slightly below the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. This marked the slowest contraction in activity in the current 15-month period of decline. The latest reduction was only modest overall, as firms faced softer restrictions in the first half of April. The report also showed that the composite index moved to expansion with a reading of 51.0, up from 49.9 in March.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan is up 1 percent. Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Shanghai are gaining between 0.4 and 0.8 percent. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Indonesia are bucking the trend and are losing 0.2 percent each.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday, following the mixed performance seen in the previous session. With the upward move, the Dow reached another new record closing high.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, reaching new highs for the session. The Dow jumped 318.19 points or 0.9 percent to 34,548.53, the Nasdaq rose 50.42 points or 0.4 percent to 13,632.84 and the S&P 500 climbed 34.03 points or 0.8 percent to 4,201.62.

The major European markets all also moved to the upside over the course of the session. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures finished lower on Thursday, extending losses from previous session amid worries about the outlook for energy demand. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June were down $0.92 or 1.4 percent at $64.71 a barrel.

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