Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday following the gains on Wall Street after U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S.-China trade talks are “going very well” and once again hinted that an early March deadline to reach a deal could be postponed.

The Australian market slipped into negative territory after opening higher following the positive cues from Wall Street and higher commodity prices. Investors are cautious as they digested a raft of corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 13.60 points or 0.22 percent to 6,093.30, after rising to a high of 6,125.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 11.90 points or 0.19 percent to 6,172.30. Australian shares closed modestly higher on Tuesday.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac are lower in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is up 0.2 percent.

In the mining space, BHP Group is adding almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto is rising more than 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is higher by almost 6 percent.

Fortescue Metals reported a 5 percent decline in half-year profit, but beat analysts’ estimates.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining is up 0.7 percent and Newcrest Mining is adding more than 1 percent after gold prices touched a ten-month high overnight.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are adding almost 1 percent each, while Oil Search is higher by more than 1 percent.

Shares of Stockland Corp are losing almost 4 percent after the property development company reported a 56 percent fall in its half-year net profit and warned of weaker full-year results.

Fletcher Building reported a turnaround to profit in the first half and resumed its interim dividend payment. The dual-listed building firm’s shares are losing more than 4 percent.

Woolworths Group reported a 1 percent increase in first-half profit on higher sales, but warned of subdued consumer spending for the foreseeable future. The supermarket giant’s shares are lower by almost 5 percent.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises reported a 9 percent decline in first-half profit despite a nearly 24 percent increase in revenues and said it will no longer provide yearly guidance updates. The pizza company’s shares are losing more than 5 percent.

Meanwhile, Corporate Travel Management reported a 27 percent increase in half-year net profit and said it was on track for the top end of its financial 2019 guidance. The travel service company’s shares are gaining almost 9 percent.

A2 Milk Co. recorded a more than 50 percent jump in half-year net profit and lifted its market share in China. The dairy producer’s shares are rising more than 8 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7167, up from $0.7112 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is rising following the modest gains on Wall Street and on a weaker yen after Japan’s trade deficit for January came in wider than expected.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 186.29 points or 0.87 percent to 21,488.94, after rising to a high of 21,494.85 earlier. Japanese shares hit fresh two-month highs on Tuesday.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing almost 2 percent, Panasonic is adding almost 1 percent and Canon is up 0.6 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is up 0.3 percent, while Tokyo Electron is lower by 0.2 percent.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is up almost 1 percent and Honda is rising more than 1 percent. In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.1 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is lower by 0.4 percent, while Japan Petroleum is rising 0.3 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Pacific Metals is rising more than 5 percent and Mitsui E&S is higher by more than 4 percent. Chiyoda Corp., Sumitomo Metal Mining and Yamaha Corp. are all higher by more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Fujitsu is losing more than 3 percent and Screen Holdings is declining 2 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan had a merchandise trade deficit of 1,452.2 billion yen in January. That missed expectations for a shortfall of 1,029.5 billion yen following the 56.7 billion yen deficit in December.

Exports were down 8.4 percent on year to 5.574 trillion yen, shy of forecasts for a fall of 5.7 percent after dropping 3.9 percent in the previous month. Imports eased an annual 0.6 percent to 6.989 trillion yen versus expectations for a decline of 3.5 percent after rising 1.9 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Hong Kong and South Korea are advancing more than 1 percent each, while New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan are also higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday in choppy trading amid uncertainty about the potential for a trade deal between the U.S. and China as the next round of trade talks get underway in Washington, D.C. this week. News that China accused the U.S. of attempting to curtail its technology development by putting pressure on allies to shun networks supplied by Huawei Technologies raised concerns about tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

The Dow inched up 8.07 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 25,891.32, the Nasdaq rose 14.36 points or 0.2 percent to 7,486.77 and the S&P 500 edged up 4.16 points or 0.2 percent to 2,779.76.

The major European markets also ended mixed on Tuesday. The German DAX Index crept up by 0.1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index slipped by 0.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil futures moved higher Tuesday on optimism surrounding OPEC-led production cuts and the U.S. sanctions against exporters Iran and Venezuela. WTI crude rose $0.50 to settle at $56.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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