Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday with modest gains with investors treading cautiously as they looked ahead to the release of major corporate earnings results and economic data later this week for clues on the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the global economy. Crude oil prices are losing almost 16 percent in Asian trades.

The Australian market is declining despite the positive cues from Wall Street Friday as investors remained cautious ahead of the release of key data this week that will show the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Australian economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is lower by 18.60 points or 0.34 percent to 5,468.90, off a low of 5,441.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is losing 17.70 points or 0.32 percent to 5,527.00. Australian stocks closed notably higher on Friday.

In the mining space, Fortescue Metals is rising almost 2 percent and BHP is advancing more than 1 percent, while Rio Tinto is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are higher in a range of 0.5 percent to 1 percent.

National Australia Bank said its first-half results will be impacted by A$1.14 billion in charges and writedowns even before factoring in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The bank’s shares are down 0.5 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is declining more than 1 percent and Santos is down 0.4 percent, while Oil Search is adding 0.3 percent after crude oil prices tumbled more than 8 percent on Friday.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is losing more than 2 percent and Evolution Mining is unchanged after safe-haven gold prices declined on Friday.

Fuel retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard said it will not go ahead with the acquisition of Caltex Australia as talks for an A$8.8 billion deal were put on hold due to the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Shares of Caltex Australia are losing almost 8 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6363, up from $0.6340 on Friday.

The Japanese market is losing despite the gains on Wall Street Friday. Investors digested data that showed Japan’s trade surplus for March declined more than expected as the coronavirus woes hit the country’s exports to major trading partners.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 191.96 points or 0.96 percent to 19,705.30 after touching a low of 19,611.79 in early trades. Japanese shares closed sharply higher on Friday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 3 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining almost 2 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Panasonic and Canon are declining almost 1 percent each, while Sony is down 0.3 percent. Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.4 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is edging down 0.1 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are lower by almost 1 percent each.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is declining 0.6 percent and Inpex is edging down 0.1 percent after crude oil prices lost more than 8 percent on Friday.

Among the other major gainers, Taiheiyo Cement is rising more than 3 percent and IHI Corp. is higher by more than 2 percent.

Conversely, Citizen Watch and Comsys Holdings are losing 3 percent each, while Japan Steel Works, Nissan Chemical and Kyowa Kirin are lower by almost 3 percent each.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 4.946 billion yen in March. That was well shy of forecasts for 459.9 billion yen and down sharply from the 1,109.8 billion yen surplus in February.

Exports tumbled 11.7 percent on year to 6.357 trillion yen – missing estimates for a fall of 9.4 percent following the 1.0 percent drop in the previous month. Imports sank an annual 5.0 percent to 6.352 trillion yen versus expectations for a decline of 8.7 percent following the 14.0 percent slide a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 107 yen-range on Monday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks extended gains on Friday from the previous session following a report of promising early data related to a potential coronavirus treatment from Gilead Sciences. Traders also reacted positively to President Donald Trump’s plans for a gradual re-opening of the U.S. economy and shrugged off a Conference Board report showing its index of leading U.S. economic indicators registered the largest decline in its 60-year history in the month of March.

The Dow soared 704.81 points or 3 percent to 24,242.49, the Nasdaq jumped 117.78 points or 1.4 percent to 8,650.14 and the S&P 500 spiked 75.01 points or 2.7 percent to 2,874.56.

The major European markets also showed substantial moves to the upside on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 3.4 percent, the German DAX Index soared by 3.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 2.8 percent.

Crude oil prices plummeted to their lowest levels since January 2002 on Friday, as huge crude stockpile and continued concerns about the outlook for near to medium-term energy demand weighed heavily on the commodity. WTI crude for May delivery tumbled $1.60 or a little over 8 percent to $18.27 a barrel.

In Asian trades Monday, WTI crude is further losing $2.92 or 15.98 percent to $15.35 a barrel.

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