Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Virus Concerns

Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Friday, ignoring the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders continue to be worried about the alarming spread of the highly contagious coronavirus variants in the region, which will impact the pace of the global economy recovery from the pandemic. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

The Australian stock market is slightly higher in choppy trading on Friday, after being in the red most of the morning, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,500 level near all-time highs, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, as the country struggles to contain the domestic coronavirus situation, primarily in New South Wales, hindering economic activity amid lockdowns.

RBA Governor Philip Lowe said it is “quite unlikely” Australia will suffer a recession this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it should grow through the final three months of the year, he added.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 3.80 points or 0.05 percent to 7,514.90, after hitting a low of 7,497.30 and a high of 7,518.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 4.10 points or 0.05 percent to 7,783.70. Australian markets ended slightly higher on Thursday.

Among major miners, BHP Group is losing more than 2 percent, while Mineral Resources and OZ Minerals are declining almost 1 percent each. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are down almost 2 percent each.

BHP announced it has approved a US$544 million for the Shenzi North oil project in the US Gulf of Mexico with production expected to begin in the 2024 financial year.

Oil stocks are higher. Oil Search and Santos are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.2 percent and Beach energy is up more than 1 percent. Origin Energy is edging down 0.2 percent.

Among tech stocks, Xero is gaining more than 1 percent, while WiseTech Global and Appen are flat. Afterpay is adding more than 5 percent.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are edging up 0.2 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is flat.

Banks have frozen repayments on 14,500 home loans as a result of the latest round of lockdowns, highlighting the growing financial toll being inflicted by restrictions, primarily in NSW.

Gold miners are lower. Newcrest Mining and Gold Road Resources are losing more than 2 percent each, while Resolute Mining is down more than 3 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by more than 1 percent. Northern Star Resources is declining almost 3 percent.

In other news, shares in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp are up more than 5 percent after it declared its most profitable financial result in eight years.

Online bookie BetMakers announced that New Jersey Thoroughbred has officially authorised fixed odds wagering on horse racing. BetMakers’ has a 10-year agreement with New Jersey which operates the Monmouth Park Racetrack to offer fixed odds wagering. BetMakers is surging almost 10 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.738 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is slightly higher on Friday, extending the gains in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 staying above the 27,700 level, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, even as the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to stifle economic activity in 30 cities in the country.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 27,744.24 up 16.12 points or 0.06 percent, after touching high of 27,888.87 earlier. Japanese shares closed modestly higher on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.5 percent, while Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is edging up 0.2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is edging up 0.3 percent, while Toyota is losing more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is flat and Tokyo Electron is losing almost 1 percent and Screen Holdings is down almost 2 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are edging up 0.6 percent each.

Among major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is losing almost 1 percent, while Panasonic and Canon are edging down 0.3 percent each. Sony is edging up 0.4 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Fujikura is gaining more than 13 percent, Konami Holdings is adding more than 8 percent and Nikon is up more than 7 percent, while Shiseido and Suzuki Motor are higher by more than 5 percent each. Mitsui E&S Holdings, Taiyo Yuden, BANDAI NAMCO, NTT Data and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are gaining almost 5 percent each, while Olympus and Shionogi & Co. are adding almost 4 percent.

Conversely, Kobe Steel is losing more than 9 percent, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is down almost 6 percent, Sharp is declining more than 6 percent, Sumco is lower by 5.5 percent and Furukawa Electric is down more than 5 percent, while SKY Perfect JSAT and Takara Holdings are losing more than 4 percent.

In economic news, the average of household spending in Japan was down 5.1 percent on year in June, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Friday, coming in at 260,285 yen. That was well shy of expectations for an increase of 0.1 percent and down sharply from the 11.6 percent spike in May. On a monthly basis, household spending sank 3.2 percent – again missing forecasts for an increase of 2.0 percent after slipping 2.1 percent in the previous month. The average of monthly income per household stood at 904,078 yen, down 11.5 percent on year.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea are all lower by between 0.1 and 0.5 percent each, while Singapore is relatively flat. Indonesia is bucking the trend and is up 0.1 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks moved back to the upside during trading on Thursday after ending the previous session mostly lower. With the upward move on the day, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 reached new record closing highs.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, ending the session at their best levels of the day. The Dow climbed 271.58 points or 0.8 percent to 35,064.25, the Nasdaq advanced 114.58 points or 0.8 percent to 14,895.12 and the S&P 500 rose 26.44 points or 0.6 percent to 4,429.10.

Meanwhile, the major European markets also finished the day mixed. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index rose 0.3 percent and the French CAC 40 Index climbed 0.5 percent.

Crude oil futures rebounded Thursday, regaining ground after moving sharply lower over the three previous sessions. After plummeting by 7.8 percent so far this week, crude for September delivery advanced $0.94 or 1.4 percent to $69.09 a barrel.

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