Asian Markets Exhibit Mixed Trend

Asian stock markets are mixed on Thursday despite easing fears about the coronavirus outbreak and optimism of further stimulus measures by China to support its economy. On Thursday, China cut the one-year loan prime rate or LPR by 10 basis points in order to lower financing costs for businesses.

Meanwhile, China’s National Health Commission reported only 394 new confirmed cases related to the coronavirus outbreak as of February 19, sharply lower than the 1,749 new cases reported in the previous day.

The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session following the positive cues from Wall Street and as investors digested a slew of local corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 39.10 points or 0.55 percent to 7,183.70 and the broader All Ordinaries Index is higher by 37.70 points or 0.52 percent to 7,275.10. Australian stocks closed modestly higher on Wednesday.

The major miners are mostly higher. Fortescue Metals is advancing 1 percent and BHP is adding 0.3 percent, while Rio Tinto is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are rising in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices extended gains to a fifth straight session overnight. Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is adding 0.4 percent.

Oil stocks are advancing after crude oil prices rose more than 2 percent overnight. Woodside Petroleum is gaining more than 1 percent and Oil Search is rising 0.6 percent.

Santos said its full-year profit rose 7 percent following a jump in production, but declared a lower final dividend. The independent gas producer’s shares are down 0.2 percent.

Qantas Airways reported a 6 percent decrease in profit before tax for the first half of the year and said it will cut capacity to Asia and locally to deal with the decline in travel due to the coronavirus outbreak. The airline’s shares are gaining almost 6 percent.

Whitehaven Coal reported a 91 percent fall in profit for the first half of the year and lowered its interim dividend. The coal producer’s shares are losing more than 5 percent.

Lendlease Group said its half-year profit from core operations declined 13 percent, while its non-core operations reported a turnaround to profit. Overall, the company reported a surge in profit for the period despite lower revenues. The property developer’s shares are gaining more than 8 percent.

Boral said its net profit for the first half of the year fell 40 percent from a year ago, reflecting higher costs and weak construction activity, and also halved its interim dividend. The building materials firm’s shares are rising more than 1 percent.

Coca-Cola Amatil reported a 34 percent surge in profit for the full year on higher revenues. The beverage company’s shares are gaining more than 7 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.3 percent in January. That exceeded expectations for 5.2 percent and was up from 5.1 percent in December.

The Australian economy added 13.500 jobs last month, again surpassing forecasts for a gain of 10,000 jobs, following the gain of 28,900 jobs in the previous month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6683, down from $0.6692 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is notably higher following the positive cues overnight from Wall Street, while the safe-haven yen weakened.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 324.19 points or 1.39 percent to 23,724.89, after touching a high of 23,806.56 earlier. Japanese stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 3 percent and Fast Retailing is advancing more than 1 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is adding 0.6 percent.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Sony is rising more than 2 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is advancing more than 1 percent, Panasonic is adding almost 1 percent and Canon is up 0.6 percent.

Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is rising more than 2 percent and Toyota Motor is higher by more than 1 percent. In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is higher by almost 3 percent and Inpex is advancing more than 2 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the major gainers, Taiyo Yuden is gaining almost 4 percent, while Mitsui Mining & Smelting, TDK Corp., Oji Holdings and Sky Perfect JSAT are higher by more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Tokyo Tatemono and Nippon Steel are lower by more than 1 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see final January figures for machine tool orders today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 111 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand and Indonesia are also higher, while South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are lower. Shanghai is edging higher, while Malaysia is edging lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Wednesday amid easing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak after Chinese officials reported the lowest number of newly confirmed cases since late January. A rebound by shares of tech giant Apple also generated some positive sentiment. On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing producer prices increased by much more than anticipated in the month of January.

The Dow rose 115.84 points or 0.4 percent to 29,348.03, the Nasdaq advanced 84.44 points or 0.9 percent to 9,817.18 and the S&P 500 climbed 15.86 points or 0.5 percent to 3,386.15.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index surged up by 1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index jumped by 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rose sharply on Wednesday as concerns about the outlook for energy demand eased after reports said the number of coronavirus cases fell down for a second straight day in China. WTI crude for March ended up $1.24 or about 2.4 percent at $53.29 a barrel.

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