Asian Markets Mostly Higher Amid Cautious Trades

Asian stock markets are trading mostly higher on Friday, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, even as investors remain cautious and continue to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant and vaccine efficacy against it. There are concerned the variant could derail the global economic recovery. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

However, the WHO’s chief scientist suggested that the vaccines are likely to hold some protection against the new Covid-19 mutation.

The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Friday, recouping some of the losses in the previous two sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,200 level, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders looked to buy stocks at a bargain after recent Omicron-induced losses, even as they remain cautious and continue to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus variant.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 11.00 points or 0.15 percent to 7,236.20, after touching a high of 7,288.20 and low of 7,211.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 3.00 points or 0.04 percent to 7,539.10. Australian markets ended slightly lower on Thursday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto and OZ Minerals are adding more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.2 percent and Mineral Resources is edging up 0.3 percent. BHP Group is gaining almost 2 percent after its board approved a proposal to scrap the Australian miner’s dual-listed structure.

Oil stocks are mostly higher. Oil Search is gaining almost 2 percent, Santos is adding almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.5 percent, while Origin Energy is edging down 0.1 percent and Beach energy is losing more than 1 percent.

Among tech stocks, Xero is gaining almost 1 percent, while WiseTech Global is edging down 0.4 percent, Afterpay is losing 1.5 percent and Appen is down almost 2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are edging up 0.4 percent each, while ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are gaining almost 1 percent each.

Gold miners are mostly lower. Resolute Mining is gaining 1.5 percent, while Northern Star Resources and Evolution Mining are losing more than 2 percent each. Gold Road Resources and Newcrest Mining are declining more than 1 percent each.

Shares in biotech giant CSL are down almost 2 percent on speculation it is in advanced talks to buy Swiss pharma firm Vifor in a $10 billion deal.

Shares in TPG Telecom are surging almost 6 percent after its former founder and chairman David Teoh reduced his stake in the telecommunications company.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in November, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics revealed on Friday with a services PMI score of 55.7. That’s up from 51.8 in October and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that the composite index rose from 52.1 in October to 55.7 in November.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.707 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is trading modestly lower in choppy trading on Friday, extending the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 just below the 27,700 level, despite the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders remain cautious and continue to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 27,692.34, down 61.03 points or 0.22 percent, after hitting a low of 27,588.61 earlier. Japanese shares closed significantly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing more than 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is down more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing more than 1 percent, while Toyota is edging up 0.3 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 1 percent, Tokyo Electron is declining more than 3 percent and Screen Holdings is down almost 3 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging up 0.5 percent, while Mizuho Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are gaining more than 1 percent each.

Among major exporters, Panasonic is gaining more than 1 percent, Canon is edging up 0.1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging up 0.5 percent. Sony is flat.

Among the other major losers, FUJIFILM Holdings is sliding almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is soaring more than 11 percent, while Dentsu Group and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines are gaining more than 5 percent. IHI is advancing more than 4 percent, while ANA Holdings, Nippon Yusen K.K. and Fukuoka Financial Group are up almost 4 percent each. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings and Concordia Financial Group are rising more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, the services sector in Japan continued to expand in November, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed on Friday with a PMI score of 53.0. That’s up from 50.7 in October, and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that the composite index improved to 53.3 from 50.7 in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 113 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, China, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore are higher by between 0.1 and 0.4 percent each. Hong Kong and Indonesia are down 1.01 and 0.3 percent, respectively. Taiwan is relatively flat. Malaysia is closed for a special holiday after Kuala Lumpur (KL) City FC won the Malaysia Cup earlier this week.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a strong move back to the upside during trading on Thursday following the substantial downturn seen over the course of the previous session. The major averages all finished the day firmly positive, with the Dow posting a particularly strong gain.

The Dow spiked 617.75 points or 1.8 percent to 34,639.79 and the S&P 500 jumped 64.06 points or 1.4 percent to 4,577.10. The tech-heavy Nasdaq showed a lack of direction early in the session but closed up 127.27 points or 0.8 percent at 15,381.32.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rallied on Thursday after falling to a three-month low in the previous session, shaking off plans by OPEC to increase output. West Texas Intermediate for January delivery jumped $0.93 or 1.4 percent to $66.50 a barrel.

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