Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Thursday, ignoring the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, amid weak economic activity data emerging from China and concerns that the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus may slow the global economic recovery from the pandemic. Asian markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday.
The Australian stock market is significantly higher on Thursday, recouping the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,500 level, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, led by strong gains in the energy sector as crude oil prices rose sharply, even as traders remain concerned about the worsening domestic coronavirus situation, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, which is hindering economic activity.
NSW has reported 1,351 new local cases of COVID-19 and twelve deaths on Wednesday, with Melbourne and Sydney, two of the largest cities, and regional areas still under tougher restrictions and lockdowns. Victoria recorded 514 new locally acquired cases, with active cases now totalling 4,370 across the state.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 59.60 points or 0.80 percent to 7,476.60, after hitting a low of 7,487.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 56.70 points or 0.73 percent to 7,779.90. Australian markets ended modestly lower on Wednesday.
Among major miners, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are edging up 0.1 percent each, while BHP Group is gaining almost 2 percent and Mineral Resources is edging up 0.4 percent. OZ Minerals is edging down 0.3 percent.
Oil stocks are higher. Beach Energy is gaining almost 3 percent, Woodside Petroleum is adding more than 2 percent and Origin Energy is edging up 0.5 percent, while Oil Search and Santos are up more than 1 percent each.
Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are edging up 0.3 percent each.
In the tech space, Xero is gaining more than 1 percent, while Afterpay and WiseTech Global are declining more than 1 percent each. Appen is losing almost 3 percent.
Gold miners are lower. Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources are down 1.5 percent each, while Resolute Mining is declining almost 2 percent, Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.5 percent and Gold Road Resources is losing almost 1 percent.
In economic news, the Australian economy parted ways with 146,300 jobs in August, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday. That was well off from forecasts for the loss of 90,000 jobs following the addition of 2,200 jobs in July. 68,000 full-time jobs were lost last month, while 78,200 part-time jobs were lost. The unemployment rate somehow fell to a seasonally adjusted 4.5 percent versus forecasts for 4.9 percent and down from 4.6 percent in the previous month. The participation rate slipped to 65.2 percent, missing forecasts for 65.7 percent and down from 66.0 percent a month earlier.
In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.733 on Thursday.
The Japanese stock market is modestly lower on Thursday, extending the losses in the previous two sessions, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 staying below the 30,400 level, ignoring the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, amid threat to the nation’s security after two ballistic missiles fired by North Korea landed in Japanese territorial waters.
The nation is also continuing its efforts to contain the unprecedented spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with economic activity being stifled as Tokyo and 18 prefectures are still under COVID-19 state of emergency.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 30,332.64, down 179.07 points or 0.59 percent, after hitting a low of 30,308.69 earlier. Japanese shares ended modestly lower on Wednesday.
Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing almost 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is gaining almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is adding almost 1 percent and Honda is gaining more than 1 percent.
In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are losing more than 2 percent each, while Screen Holdings is down almost 3 percent.
In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are edging down 0.4 percent each, while Mizuho Financial is edging up 0.3 percent.
The major exporters are mixed. Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are edging up 0.4 percent each, while Panasonic is losing almost 1 percent. Canon is edging up 0.2 percent.
Among the other major losers, CyberAgent, Daiwa Securities, Hitachi Zosen and NEXON are losing more than 3 percent each, while Nikon, Yamaha Motor and Tokyu Fudosan are down more than 2 percent each.
Conversely, Toho Zinc is gaining almost 7 percent and Fujikura is up almost 6 percent, while Idemitsu Kosan and Unitika are adding more than 3 percent each. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is rising almost 3 percent, while T&D Holdings, Pacific Metals and Shimizu are up more than 2 percent each.
In economic news, Japan posted a merchandise trade deficit of 635.4 billion yen in August, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday. That was well shy of expectations for a shortfall of 47.7 billion yen following the downwardly revised 439.4 billion yen surplus in July (originally 441 billion yen).
Exports were up 26.2 percent on year, missing expectations for an increase of 34.0 percent and down from the 37.0 percent gain in the previous month. Imports surged an annual 44.7 percent versus expectations for a gain of 40 percent and up from 28.5 percent a month earlier.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 109 yen-range on Thursday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is losing 1.2 percent, while New Zealand, China, Taiwan and South Korea are lower by between 0.2 and 0.6 percent each. Singapore is bucking the trend and is up 0.3 percent. Malaysia and Indonesia are relatively flat.
On Wall Street, stocks initially showed a lack of direction during trading on Wednesday but climbed firmly into positive territory as the day progressed. With the advance on the day, the major averages largely offset the downturn seen in the previous session.
The major averages finished the session near their best levels of the day. The Dow climbed 236.82 points or 0.7 percent to 34,814.39, the Nasdaq advanced 123.77 points or 0.8 percent to 15,161.53 and the S&P 500 jumped 37.56 points or 0.9 percent to 4,480.70.
Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the downside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index slumped 1 percent, the German DAX Index slid 0.7 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index dipped 0.3 percent.
Crude oil prices rose sharply Wednesday, lifting the most active crude futures contracts to a nearly seven-week closing high after data showed a larger than expected drop in U.S. crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for October ended up by $2.15 or 3.1 percent at $72.61 a barrel, the highest settlement since July 30.
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