Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday following the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Investor sentiment was also boosted after China’s senior medical adviser said in an interview with Reuters that the coronavirus outbreak may hit a peak in China this month and the epidemic may be over by April. The coronavirus has killed more than 1,100 people in China.

The Australian market is rising after U.S. stocks closed mostly higher. Upbeat earnings results from local companies such as banking giant Commonwealth Bank and biotech company CSL bolstered sentiment.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 32.50 points or 0.46 percent to 7,087.80, off a high of 7,093.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 33.60 points or 0.47 percent to 7,185.00. Australian shares closed higher on Tuesday.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank reported a 34 percent increase in first-half statutory net profit and its cash profit beat analysts’ expectations. The bank’s shares are rising more than 3 percent.

National Australia Bank is higher by more than 1 percent, Westpac is adding 0.6 percent and ANZ Banking up 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are weak. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are lower by 1 percent each, while BHP is declining almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are also declining after gold prices drifted lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is lower by almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is edging down 0.1 percent.

Oil stocks are lower even as crude oil prices rebounded overnight. Woodside Petroleum is losing 0.4 percent, Oil Search is declining 0.2 percent and Santos is edging down 0.1 percent.

CSL reported an 11 percent increase in first-half net profit and raised its full-year profit outlook as well as interim dividend. The biotech’s shares are advancing almost 1 percent. said its statutory net profit for the half-year surged more than five-fold and raised its interim dividend. The online vehicle sales company’s shares are gaining almost 8 percent.

Computershare recorded a nearly 52 percent plunge in first-half net profit on flat revenue, but held its interim dividend. The stock transfer company’s shares are adding 0.3 percent.

Insurance Australia Group or IAG reported a 43 percent decrease in first-half net profit and again lowered its full-year profit outlook. However, shares of the insurance giant are higher by more than 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar was quoted at $0.6718 on Wednesday, compared to $0.6716 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market, which resumed trading after a holiday on Tuesday, is advancing following the gains on Wall Street. Market heavyweight SoftBank is leading the gainers.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 106.46 points or 0.45 percent to 23,792.44, after touching a high of 23,867.99 in early trades. The Japanese market was closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is gaining almost 11 percent after a U.S. District judge ruled in favor of Sprint Corp.’s $26 billion merger deal with T-Mobile US. SoftBank is a majority shareholder of Sprint. Fast Retailing is adding 0.3 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are higher by almost 3 percent each. Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is adding 0.6 percent, while Toyota Motor is edging down 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Canon is losing more than 2 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is declining almost 1 percent. Panasonic and Sony are down 0.3 percent each.

In the oil sector, Inpex is lower by more than 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum is adding 0.7 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Screen Holdings, Credit Saison and Pacific Metals are all rising more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Japan Steel Works is losing almost 6 percent, while Obayashi Corp. and Sumitomo Osaka are lower by almost 4 percent each.

In economic news, the Bank of Japan said that the M2 money stock in Japan was up 2.8 percent on year in January, coming in at 1,042.9 trillion yen. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 2.7 percent, which would have been unchanged from the December reading.

The M3 money stock was up an annual 2.3 percent at 1,379.1 trillion yen – unchanged and matching forecasts.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 109 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand is rising more than 1 percent, while Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are also higher. Shanghai and Malaysia are edging higher, while South Korea and Indonesia are modestly lower.

On Wall Street stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday as traders continued to shrug off concerns about the economic impact of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee that the central bank is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak, but also highlighted the resilience of the U.S. economy.

While the Nasdaq edged up 10.55 points or 0.1 percent to 9,638.94 and the S&P 500 rose 5.66 points or 0.2 percent to 3,357.75, the Dow closed down 0.48 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 29,276.34.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index surged up by 1 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both climbed 7 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, rebounding from recent losses, on reports the number of new cases infected from the coronavirus is slowing down. WTI crude oil for March ended up $0.37, or about 0.8 percent, at $49.94 a barrel.

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