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Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Virus Concerns

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Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Monday, ignoring the broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday as traders continue to be spooked by the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in several markets in the region and across the world, which is expected to slow the pace of the global economic recovery from the pandemic. Traders are now looking ahead to the upcoming monetary policy meeting of the Federal Reserve for direction. Asian markets closed mixed on Friday.

The Australian stock market is slightly higher in choppy trading on Monday, extending the gains in the previous three sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,400 level, following the broadly negative cues from Wall Street on Friday. The market is supported by materials stocks. Traders are also concerned as the nation's the biggest cities are under strict lockdown amid the resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The local COVID situation has deteriorated badly over the last two weeks, with New South Wales reporting 145 new cases on Sunday, while Victoria is down to 11 cases. Victoria's lockdown is due to end at midnight Tuesday, while there is no end date to the Sydney lockdown yet.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 2.20 points or 0.03 percent to 7,396.60, after touching a new all-time high of 7,417.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 3.10 points or 0.04 percent to 7,674.00. Australian stocks closed marginally higher on Friday.

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

Shares in Lynas Rare Earths are surging almost 8 percent after the company reported record sales revenue of $185.9 million for the June quarter on strong ore prices despite production issues.

Oil stocks are lower, with oil Search and Origin Energy losing almost 1 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos are down more than 1 percent each. Beach energy is edging down 0.4 percent.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is losing almost 2 percent and Appen is losing more than 1 percent, while Xero is gaining more than 1 percent and WiseTech Global is edging up 0.4 percent.

Gold miners are lower. Evolution Mining is losing more than 3 percent, while Northern Star Resources and Gold Road Resources are down almost 2 percent each. Newcrest Mining is lower by more than 1 percent. Resolute Mining is declining more than 4 percent.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are all edging down 0.2 percent each.

In other news, shares in Cann Group is plunging almost 12 percent after the cannabis producer revealed plans for a fund raise from institutional investors at a discount.

Commercial property giant GPT Group has withdrawn its 2021 guidance amid COVID uncertainty amidst the rolling lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney. The stock is down more than 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.735 on Monday.

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Monday, extending the gains of the previous session before the loon weekend, with the Nikkei 225 adding almost 400 points to be above the 27,900 level, following the broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday as upbeat earnings news and signs of economic revival fuelled investor risk appetite.

Traders continue to be concerned amid the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus variants even as the Tokyo Olympics takes off successfully. The daily new cases in Tokyo has been more than 1,000 for the past six days.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 27,931.78, up 383.78 points or 1.39 percent, after touching a high of 28,036.47 earlier. Japanese shares ended significantly higher on Wednesday and were closed for holidays on Thursday and Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.3 percent, while Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is gaining almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is edging up 0.3 percent and Toyota is gaining almost 1 percent.

The major exporters are higher, with Panasonic gaining almost 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric adding more than 1 percent and Sony up almost 2 percent, while Canon is flat.

In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are gaining almost 2 percent each, while Screen Holdings is adding more than 2 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.5 percent, Mizuho Financial is gaining almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is up almost 2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, JFE Holdings is gaining more than 6 percent and Toray Industries is adding more than 5 percent, while CyberAgent, Tokai Carbon, Nippon Steel and Hitachi Zosen are up more than 4 percent each. Tokyo Tatemono, Omron, Tokyo Tatemono and Kobe Steel are rising almost 4 percent each, while Toyobo, Nikon, Ebara, Minebea Mitsumi and Taiyo Yuden are higher by more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Tokyo Electric Power is losing almost 3 percent.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to expand in July, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed on Monday, with a manufacturing PMI score of 52.2. That's down from 52.4, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that the services PMI fell to 46.4 from 47.2 in June, while the composite index slipped to 47.7 from 48.9.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 110 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is plunging 2.2 percent and China is losing 1.5 percent, while South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Taiwan are lower by between 0.2 and 0.4 percent each. Indonesia is bucking the trend and is up 0.2 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a strong move to the upside during trading on Friday, extending the rebound from the steep drop seen on Monday. With the continued advance, the major averages all reached new record closing highs.

The major averages finished the session just off their highs of the day. The Dow climbed 238.20 points or 0.7 percent to 35,061.55, the Nasdaq surged up 152.39 points or 1 percent to 14,836.99 and the S&P 500 jumped 44.31 points or 1 percent to 4,411.79.

The major European markets all also moved notably higher on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.4 percent, the German DAX Index jumped by 1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.9 percent.

Crude oil futures settled modestly higher on Friday, extending gains to a fourth straight session on hopes demand will see a significant increase in coming months. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for September ended up by $0.16 or 0.2 percent at $72.07 a barrel. WTI Crude futures gained 0.4 percent in the week.

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