Asian Markets Mostly Higher In Cautious Trade

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday despite the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. Concerns about a new coronavirus strain in the UK was offset by optimism that a new $900 billion relief package will help boost the U.S. economy.

Nevertheless, investors turned cautious after U.S. President Donald Trump urged lawmakers to make changes to the relief package, including an increase in the stimulus checks for individuals to $2,000 from $600.

The Australian market is advancing after three straight days of losses and despite the mixed cues from Wall Street.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is rising 54.50 points or 0.83 percent to 6,654.10, after touching a high of 6,661.20. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 57.10 points or 0.83 percent to 6,902.60. Australian stocks closed notably lower on Tuesday.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher even as crude oil prices fell sharply overnight. Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are all rising almost 1 percent each.

Meanwhile, the major miners are mostly lower after a fall in iron ore prices. BHP Group is declining almost 1 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is adding 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices extended recent losses overnight. Evolution Mining is adding 0.4 percent, while Newcrest Mining is lower by almost 2 percent.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank of Australia said that private sector credit in Australia was up 0.1 percent on month in November, following the flat reading in October. On a yearly basis, credit climbed 1.7 percent after gaining 1.8 percent in the previous month.

The Japanese market is rising despite the mixed cues from Wall Street.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 78.05 points or 0.30 percent to 26,514.44, after climbing to a high of 26,585.21 earlier. The Japanese market hit a three-week low on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is declining more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is down 0.2 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is rising 0.7 percent and Tokyo Electron is adding 0.4 percent.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Panasonic is declining more than 1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is losing almost 1 percent and Canon is down 0.4 percent, while Sony is adding 0.4 percent.

Among automakers, Honda is declining more than 2 percent and Toyota is down 0.6 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 0.6 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Chugai Pharmaceutical is rising more than 3 percent and Yaskawa Electric is advancing almost 3 percent. Daiichi Sankyo, Trend Micro, Cyberagent and Kyowa Kirin are all higher by more than 2 percent each.

Conversely, Pacific Metals is tumbling almost 5 percent, while Mitsui E&S and Furukawa Electric are losing more than 4 percent each. Fujikura and IHI Corp. are declining almost 4 percent each.

In economic news, members of the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy meeting said that the country’s economy is starting to show signs of recovery following the lengthy COVID-19 shutdown, minutes from the central bank’s meeting on October 28 and 29 revealed.

The minutes also showed that further coordination of fiscal and monetary policy may be necessary as employment and income remained at low levels due to the shutdown. The country also slipped back into deflation after finally shaking off more than a decade’s worth of it not that long ago.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 103 yen-range on Wednesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday in a lackluster session as traders seemed reluctant to make significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following the recent run to record highs. Reports about a new coronavirus strain generated some negative sentiment, although news of the approval of a new stimulus bill helped prop up the markets. The $900 billion relief package includes federal assistance for the unemployed, small businesses and healthcare providers as well as $600 in direct payments to individuals.

While the Nasdaq climbed 65.40 points or 0.5 percent to 12,807.92, the Dow fell 200.94 points or 0.7 percent to 30,015.51 and the S&P 500 dipped 7.66 points or 0.2 percent to 3,687.26.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.6 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices declined sharply on Tuesday amid rising worries about the outlook for energy demand due to new restrictions on travel following a surge in coronavirus cases. WTI crude for February ended down $0.95 or about 2 percent at $47.02 a barrel.

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