Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday despite the mixed cues from Wall Street Friday. Investor sentiment was boosted after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use.

In addition, investors cheered news that Britain and the European Union have agreed to continue Brexit trade talks beyond Sunday’s deadline.

The Australian market is advancing after two straight days of losses.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 32.30 points or 0.49 percent to 6,674.90, after rising to a high of 6680.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 28.20 points or 0.41 percent to 6,914.60. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday, extending losses from the previous session.

Among pharma stocks, Botanix Pharmaceuticals is gaining 4 percent, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries is rising almost 3 percent, and Neuren Pharmaceuticals is adding 0.4 percent.

The big four banks are also higher. Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are rising more than 1 percent each, while National Australia Bank and Westpac are adding almost 1 percent each.

Meanwhile, gold miners are weak even as gold prices rose on Friday. Newcrest Mining is losing 0.6 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices dipped on Friday. Santos is declining more than 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are down 0.7 percent each.

The major miners are also mostly lower. Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto are declining almost 1 percent each, while BHP Group is edging up 0.1 percent.

Flight Centre Travel Group has been taken to court by five of its former employees for allegedly being underpaid by the company. Shares of Flight Centre are losing more than 5 percent.

A fresh class action has been filed against Crown Resorts that accuses the casino giant of misleading investors over possible anti-money laundering breaches. However, shares of Crown Resorts are advancing more than 1 percent.

The Japanese market is rising after the U.S. FDA approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. In addition, the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey showed that business sentiment improved for the second straight quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 176.22 points or 0.66 percent to 26,828.74, after rising to a high of 26870.47 earlier. The Japanese market closed lower on Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is advancing almost 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is down 0.2 percent. In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is rising more than 1 percent and Advantest is adding 0.2 percent.

The major exporters are mostly higher despite a slightly stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric is rising more than 2 percent, Canon is advancing almost 2 percent and Panasonic is adding 0.5 percent, while Sony is down 0.6 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is up 0.5 percent, while Honda is declining more than 1 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is higher by more than 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is gaining more than 8 percent, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is rising more than 6 percent and IHI Corp. is higher by almost 6 percent.

Conversely, Yamaha Corp. is losing almost 4 percent, Nippon Electric Glass is lower by more than 3 percent and Dena Co. is declining almost 3 percent.

In economic news, the Bank of Japan’s quarterly Tankan Survey on business sentiment showed that large manufacturing in Japan posted some improvement in the fourth quarter of 2020, with a diffusion index score of -10. That beat forecasts for a reading of -15 as expectations were very soft because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It was also up from a score of -27 three months ago.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 104 yen-range on Monday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Friday. The Dow recovered from an early slide to close modestly higher, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed in negative territory. The uptick by the Dow was partly due to a strong gain by shares of Disney as the company forecast strong subscriber growth for Disney+ and announced an increase in the price of the streaming service. The modestly lower close by the broader Nasdaq and S&P 500 came as lawmakers in Washington remain at an impasse over a new fiscal stimulus bill.

While the Dow rose 47.11 points or 0.2 percent to 30,046.37 after falling by nearly 180 points in early trading, the Nasdaq dipped 27.94 points or 0.2 percent to 12,377.87 and the S&P 500 edged down 4.64 points or 0.1 percent to 3,663.46.

The major European markets all moved to the downside on Friday. While the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.4 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both slid by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Friday as a surge in coronavirus cases and tighter restrictions on businesses in several places around the world raised concerns about the outlook for energy demand. WTI crude for January delivery slipped $0.21 or about 0.5 percent to $46.57 a barrel.

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