Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday, following mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. Markets are positive after the minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy meeting indicated the central bank plans to maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy despite massive stimulus packages. Asian markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

However, traders continue to be cautious amid the surge in coronavirus cases in the region and extension of lockdown restrictions in several markets.

The Australian stock market is higher on Thursday, extending gains of the previous four session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 hovering just below the 7,000 mark at 14-month highs, boosted by gains in materials, energy and financial stocks after the RBA held the cash rate target at a record low 0.1 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 67.70 points or 0.98 percent to 6,995.70, after touching a high of 7,012.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 67.70 points or 0.94 percent to 7,245.10. Australian markets ended higher on Wednesday.

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

Oil stocks are higher after crude oil prices were slightly higher overnight. Oil Search, Santos, Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy are all gaining almost 1 percent each.

Among Tech stocks, Appen and Afterpay are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Xero is gaining more than 1 percent and WiseTech Global is adding almost 1 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac is gaining more than 1 percent, while National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are up almost 1 percent each.

Westpac has been sued by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for allegedly misselling consumer credit insurance to 384 customers in 2015. They allegedly sold add-on insurance products which customers had not requested or agreed to add.

Gold miners are mostly lower as higher after gold price softened. Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.1 percent and Gold Road Resources is losing more than 1 percent. Resolute Mining is declining almost 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.762 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is lower on Thursday, slipping after closing the previous session higher, with the Nikkei 225 just above the 29,600 level, as traders are cautious after the spike in coronavirus cases showed signs of a fourth wave of infections in the country.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,620.11, down 110.68 points or 0.37 percent, after hitting a low of 29,516.42 in early trades. Japanese shares ended slightly higher on Wednesday.

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

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

The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric is losing almost 1 percent, Canon is edging down 0.4 percent, Panasonic is declining more than 3 percent and Sony is down almost 2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Hino Motors and Japan Exchange Group are adding almost 3 percent, while Fuji Electric and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha are up more than 2 percent. Konami Holdings and shin-Etsu Chemical are also almost 2 percent.

Conversely, CyberAgent is losing more than 4 percent, while Oki Electric Industry, Nikon, Toray Industries, Isetan Mitsukoshi, Credit Saison, Fujikura, Takashimaya and Marubeni are down more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, Japan posted a current account surplus of 2.916 trillion yen in February, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday – down 4.7 percent on year. That handily beat expectations for a surplus of 1.966 trillion yen following the 646.8 billion yen surplus in January. The capital account showed a deficit of 39.8 billion yen and the financial account had a shortfall of 1.231 trillion yen.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Shanghai, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea are all advancing between 0.1 and 0.9 percent each.

On Wall Street, stocks continued to experience choppy trading on Wednesday following the lackluster performance seen in the previous session. The major averages once again spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the day mixed. While the Nasdaq edged down 9.54 points or 0.1 percent to 13,688.84, the Dow inched up 16.02 points or 0.1 percent to 33,446.26 and the S&P 500 rose 6.01 points or 0.2 percent to a new record closing high of 4,079.95.

The major European markets also ended the day mixed. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line and the German DAX Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Wednesday, supported by data showing a drop in U.S. crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May ended up $0.44 or 0.7 percent at $59.77 a barrel.

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