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Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trade

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Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Thursday, following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street on continued economic optimism as the country continues to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic. Buying interest remained subdued as traders look ahead to Friday's closely watched inflation reading, which could directly affect the current levels of stimulus. Asian markets closed mixed on Wednesday.

Traders are also cautious and refraining from making major moves amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases in most markets in the region, particularly in India and Japan. The efforts to control the pandemic is also leading to restrictions and lockdowns is several areas in the region.

The Australian stock market is slightly higher in choppy trading on Thursday, recouping some of the losses of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just above the 7,100 level, following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders are also concerned as the country's second-most populous state braces for a 7-day lockdown from midnight as a cluster of COVID-19 cases grew in Victoria.

Victoria has recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours as the state braced for a likely lockdown to contain Melbourne's growing COVID-19 outbreak. There are currently 34 active cases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 15.80 points or 0.22 percent to 7,108.30, after touching a high of 7,110.00 and a low of 7,082.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 20.90 points or 0.29 percent to 7,352.50. Australian markets ended modestly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are gaining almost 1 percent each, while OZ Minerals is up almost 3 percent. Fortescue Metals and Mineral Resources are adding almost 2 percent each.

BHP Group is reportedly in discussions with fertilizer maker Nutrien Ltd related to a partnership in the miner's potash project in Canada.

Oil stocks are higher after crude oil prices edged up overnight. Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy and Santos are edging up 0.3 percent each, while Origin Energy is flat.

Among Tech stocks, Appen is losing more than 2 percent, while Afterpay and Xero are down more than 1 percent. WiseTech Global is edging down 0.2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac is flat, while National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are edging up 0.2 percent each.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources are losing almost 1 percent each, while Newcrest Mining is down more than 1 percent and Gold Road Resources is edging down 0.5 percent. Resolute Mining is flat.

In other news, ASIC has launched civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against five companies that are or were, part of wealth management company AMP Ltd. Group for allegedly charging life insurance premiums and advice fees to more than 2,000 customers between May 2015 and August 2019, despite being notified of their death. AMP is gaining almost 5 percent.

New Zealand-based medtech firm Fisher & Paykel Healthcare reported a 94 percent surge in profits on a constant currency basis to NZ$524 million or A$238 million. Overall revenues were also up 61 percent on a constant currency basis to NZ$1.97 billion. However, the stock is plunging almost 10 percent.

Fruit and vegetable grower Costa Group Holdings reported slightly better-than-expected performance in the first half, based on strengths in its international growing operations in China and Morocco. The company said overall first-half performance is expected to be marginally above the prior year. However, the stock is plummeting more than 23 percent on a mixed domestic performance.

In economic news, the value of total new capital expenditure was up a seasonally adjusted 6.3 percent on quarter in the first three months of 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday - coming in at A$31.494 billion. That beat forecasts for an increase of 2.0 percent following the 3.0 percent increase in the three months prior. On a yearly basis, overall capex was up 0.8 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.774 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is significantly lower in on Thursday, snapping the five-day winning streak, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 just below the 28,500 mark, despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders remain concerned as the Japanese government mulls tougher measures to contain the still higher daily coronavirus infection rates caused by highly contagious variants of the virus, though the daily infection rates are steadily declining since it peaked ten days ago.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,449.03, down 193.16 points or 0.67 percent, after hitting a low of 28,360.56 earlier. Japanese shares ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing almost 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is down more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are edging up 0.3 percent each.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining almost 1 percent, while Screen Holdings and Tokyo Electron are down almost 1 percent each. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Mizuho Financial are edging down 0.3 percent each.

The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric is gaining almost 1 percent, while Panasonic is losing almost 2 percent, Sony is edging down 0.1 percent and Canon is down 0.5 percent.

Among the other major losers, Fijitsu and Japan Exchange Group are losing almost 4 percent, while Konami Holdings, Toyota Tsusho, Showa Denko and JFT Holdings are down more than 3 percent each. Tokai Carbon, Recruit Holdings, Sapporo Holdings, Seven Holdings and Mitsui OSK Lines are declining almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, Astellas Pharma and Marui Group are gaining more than 3 percent each, while ANA Holdings is up almost 3 percent. CyberAgent and Z Holdings are adding more than 2 percent each, while Japan Steel Works, Asahi Group, Taiheiyo Cement, Casio Computer and Sumitomo Metal Mining are up almost 2 percent each.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand and Taiwan are losing 1 percent each, while Hong Kong is down 0.1 percent and South Korea is declining 0.7 percent. Meanwhile, Indonesia is gaining 1.4 percent. Malaysia, China and Singapore are higher by between 0.3 and 0.7 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Wednesday, partly offsetting the modest weakness seen in the previous session. The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts.

After ending Tuesday's trading marginally lower, the Nasdaq climbed 80.82 points or 0.6 percent to 13,738.00. The S&P 500 also edged up 7.86 points or 0.2 percent to 4,195.99, while the narrower Dow inched up 10.59 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 34,323.05.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a lackluster performance on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index closed marginally higher, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just below the unchanged line and the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Wednesday, rising for a fourth straight session as data showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for July ended up $0.14 or 0.2 percent at $66.21 a barrel.

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