Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are trading mostly higher on Friday, following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street, with a weak U.S. dollar and bargain hunting providing a boost. Traders are optimistic about a global economic recovery from the pandemic after a drop in US initial jobless claims to a new pandemic-era low. Traders also keenly await key U.S. inflation data later in the day that could have a significant impact on the outlook for monetary policy. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

However, traders remain cautious amid continuing concerns about the accelerating daily coronavirus infection rates in the region caused by highly contagious variants of the virus.

Australian stock market is significantly higher on Friday, extending the slight gains of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,100 level near fresh post-pandemic highs, following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. The market is lifted by materials, financial and energy stocks on a surge in commodity prices.

Traders are also concerned as the country’s second-most populous state went into a 7-day lockdown from midnight as a cluster of COVID-19 cases grew in Victoria, which recorded four new local cases and 2 new cases acquired overseas of coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The department of health confirmed there are now 39 active cases in the state.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 82.10 points or 1.16 percent to 7,177.00, after touching a high of 7,183.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 78.40 points or 1.07 percent to 7,422.40. Australian markets ended slightly higher on Thursday.

The major miners are higher. BHP Group is adding more than 3 percent, while Mineral Resources and Rio Tinto are rising more than 4 percent each. Fortescue Metals is gaining almost 2 percent and OZ Minerals is up more than 5 percent.

Oil stocks were higher after crude oil prices climbed overnight. Oil Search and Origin Energy are gaining more than 2 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos are up almost 2 percent each. Beach energy is adding almost 1 percent each.

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

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

Gold miners are lower after gold prices tumbled. Evolution Mining is losing almost 1 percent, Northern Star Resources is declining more than 1 percent and Gold Road Resources is down almost 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining and Resolute Mining are edging up 0.4 percent each.

In other news, shares in Betmakers are plunging more than 9 percent after it launched a $4 billion takeover offer for Tabcorp’s wagering and media business, including $1 billion in cash and $3 billion worth of shares.

Shares in Ingham’s are surging almost 8 percent after the poultry producer provided guidance for investors on its expected earnings and profit for the second half of the year, claiming that it can beat consensus estimates of analysts.

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

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Friday, recouping the modest losses of the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 gaining almost 600 points to break back above the 29,000 mark, as a weaker Yen also boosted exporters. This despite mixed cues overnight from Wall Street.

Meanwhile, continuing concerns about the spike in daily domestic coronavirus infections and possible more restrictions and lockdowns are limiting the market’s upside. The Japanese government is is set Friday to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and eight other prefectures for three weeks until June 20.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,111.41, up 562.40 points or 1.97 percent, after touching a high of 29,130.55 earlier. Japanese shares closed modestly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining 2.5 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is gaining more than 3 percent and Toyota is adding almost 2 percent.

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

The major exporters are higher. Canon and Mitsubishi Electric are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Sony and Panasonic are adding almost 2 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, Hino Motors is gaining more than 7 percent, while Toyo Seikan, Yaskawa Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are adding more than 6 percent each. Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Pacific Metals are up more than 5 percent each, while IHI, Toyota Tsusho, Olympus and Mitsui E&S Holdings are rising almost 5 percent each. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, T&D Holdings, JTEKT, Toray Industries and Sumitomo Metal Mining are all gaining more than 4 percent each.

Conversely, CyberAgent is losing more than 3 percent and Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma is down almost 2 percent.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.8 percent in April, the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said on Friday. That was above expectations for 2.7 percent and was up from 2.6 percent in March. The job-to-applicant ratio was 1.09, again missing forecasts for 1.10, which would have been unchanged from the previous month.

Separately, the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said overall consumer prices in Tokyo were down 0.4 percent on year in May, following the 0.6 percent decline in April. Core CPI was down an annual 0.2 percent, unchanged and in line with expectations. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, overall inflation and core CPI were both higher by 0.3 percent.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan is gaining 1.3 percent, while Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia are gaining between 0.4 and 0.8 percent each. New Zealand, Shanghai and Malaysia lower by between 0.1 and 0.4 percent each

On Wall Street, stocks moved in opposite directions at the start of trading on Thursday and continued to experience choppy trading throughout the session. The Dow ended the day firmly positive, while the broader Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed near the unchanged line.

While the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the day down 1.72 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 13,736.28, the Dow rose 141.59 points or 0.4 percent to 34,464.64 and the S&P 500 inched up 4.89 points or 0.1 percent to 4,200.88.

The major European markets also ended the day mixed. While the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index dipped by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Thursday, extending the gains to a fifth straight session following a drop in U.S. crude inventories. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for July ended up $0.64 or 1 percent at $66.85 a barrel.

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