Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday, following positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Investors are largely upbeat about a global economic recovery after the landmark $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, awaiting Joe Biden’s final approval. Technology stocks are taking a hit following recent sharp gains.

The Australian stock market is lower after early gains in choppy trade on Thursday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 6,700 level, despite positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Technology stocks are dragging the market, while materials and financials are also in negative territory. The market is extending losses of the previous session.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 17.70 points or 0.26 percent to 6,696.40, after touching a high of 6,756.70 and low of $6,648.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 11.80 points or 0.17 percent to 6,935.40. Australian markets fell sharply on Wednesday after two days of gains.

The major miners are lower. Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto are losing more than 1 percent and, while BHP Group is down almost 3 percent.

Oil stocks are mixed after crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search is adding almost 1 percent, while Santos is losing nearly 2 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by more than 1 percent.

Tech stocks are mostly lower. Appen is losing almost 3 percent and WiseTech Global is down more than 1 percent, while Afterpay is declining almost 9 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are relatively flat, while ANZ Banking is edging down 0.3 percent. National Australia Bank is edging up 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices fell for a fourth straight session overnight. Evolution Mining, Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources are all adding almost 2 percent each.

Shares in Flight Centre Travel Group are up almost 10 percent after the government announced stimulus for the travel industry.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.775 on Tuesday.

The Japanese stock market is higher on Thursday, extending gains of the previous two sessions, with the Nikkei 225 staying above the 29,000 level, following positive cues overnight from Wall Street. The broader market is benefiting from the rally in utilities and materials shares. Value-oriented stocks are again dominating as investors refocus on a stimulus-driven global economic recovery and a vaccine.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,179.84, up 143.28 points or 0.49 percent, after touching a low of 28,995.33 in early trades. Japanese shares ended a volatile session higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is advancing almost 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is rising nearly 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is declining almost 1 percent and Toyota is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by almost 2 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging up 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.6 percent.

The major exporters are mixed. Mitsubishi Electric is rising more than 2 percent, Canon is edging up 0.1 percent, while Panasonic is declining almost 2 percent and Sony is down more than 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is rising more than 8 percent, Mitsui OSK Lines is up almost 7 percent, Nippon Yusen is adding more than 6 percent and Toyobo is gaining more than 4 percent. Shimizu, Oji Holdings and Shinsei Bank are all up almost 4 percent each.

Conversely, Izuzu motors is losing more than 4 percent, while Alps Alpine and Bridgestone are down almost 3 percent each. Sumco and Central Japan railway are down more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, producer prices in Japan were up 0.4 percent on month in February, the Bank of Japan said on Thursday. That was shy of expectations for an increase of 0.5 percent and was unchanged from the January reading. On a yearly basis, producer prices sank 0.7 percent – in line with expectations and following the 1.6 percent decline in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid-108 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai and South Korea are advancing about 2 percent, while Taiwan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong are all adding more than 1 percent each. Singapore is up 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, markets in New Zealand and Malaysia are edging down.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher early in the session on Wednesday amid a rally by tech stocks ending Tuesday’s trading modestly higher. The Dow showed a substantial move to the upside during trading on Wednesday. The blue chip index jumped to a new record closing high, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq edged slightly lower after yesterday’s spike.

The Dow surged up 464.28 points or 1.5 percent to 32,297.02 and the S&P 500 climbed 23.37 points or 0.6 percent to 3,898.81. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq slipped 4.99 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 13,068.83.

The major European markets moved mostly higher on Wednesday. The French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.1 percent and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.7 percent, although the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index bucked the uptrend and closed marginally lower.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Wednesday, rebounding from recent losses, despite a rise in U.S. crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for April ended up $0.43 or 0.7 percent at $64.44 a barrel.

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