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 remain concerned over the recent regulatory crackdown in China and 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 mostly lower on Thursday.

Australian stock market is modestly higher on Friday, extending the winning streak of seven previous sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 moving above the 7,600 level to fresh all-time highs, following the broadly positive cues overnight from Wall Street, even as the country struggles to contain the domestic coronavirus situation, primarily in New South Wales, hindering economic activity amid lockdowns.

NSW has reported 390 new local cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest daily cases of the current outbreak, with more regional areas coming under tougher restrictions. Victoria recorded 15 new locally acquired cases, with active cases now totalling 148 across the state and the snap lockdown extended by another seven days in Melbourne area.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 34.40 points or 0.45 percent to 7,622.60, after touching a fresh all-time high of 7,631.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 32.60 points or 0.42 percent to 7,893.10. Australian markets ended slightly higher on Thursday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and OZ Minerals are losing more than 1 percent each, while Rio Tinto is down almost 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.2 percent. Mineral Resources is gaining almost 1 percent.

Oil stocks are mixed. Oil Search is edging up 0.1 percent and Origin Energy is gaining almost 1 percent, while Beach energy is losing more than 1 percent and Santos is edging down 0.3 percent. Woodside Petroleum is flat

Among tech stocks, Xero and WiseTech Global are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Appen is up almost 2 percent and Afterpay is adding almost 1 percent.

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

Gold miners are mixed. Newcrest Mining, Evolution Mining and Gold Road Resources are flat, while Resolute Mining is losing almost 1 percent. Northern Star Resources is edging up 0.2 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.734 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is now modestly higher in choppy trading on Friday, recouping the slight losses in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 staying above the 28,000 mark, 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 most cities in the country.

Japan reported 18,889 new cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record high for the second consecutive day and topping 18,000 for the first time.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,043.01 up 27.99 points or 0.10 percent, after touching a high of 28.070.00 and hitting a low of 27,949.33 earlier. Japanese shares closed slightly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing are edging down 0.2 percent each. Among automakers, Honda is edging down 0.4 percent, while Toyota is edging up 0.4 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is down more than 1 percent and Screen Holdings is declining almost 2 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are edging down 0.4 percent each, while Mizuho Financial is flat.

Among major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is edging up 0.3 percent and Sony is gaining more than 1 percent, while Panasonic and Canon are flat.

Among the other major losers, Oki Electric Industry is losing almost 10 percent and Yamato Holdings is down more than 6 percent and Fujikura is declining more than 3 percent, while Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Japan Steel Works are lower by almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, Recruit Holdings is gaining almost 11 percent, JFE Holdings is adding almost 5 percent and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is up more than 3 percent, while Nexon and Trend Micro and Ricoh are rising almost 3 percent.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea is losing 1.5 percent, while China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore are lower by between 0.1 and 0.9 percent each. New Zealand is gaining 0.8 percent. Malaysia is relatively flat.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday, after what turned out to be a somewhat lackluster session. Data showing acceleration in producer prices and a drop in jobless claims suggested the economy is well and truly on the recovery track.

Among the major averages, the Dow and S&P 500 scaled new record highs. The Dow, which rose to 35,510.77, settled at 35,499.85, gaining 14.88 points or 0.04 percent. The S&P 500 ended up by 13.13 points or 0.3 percent at 4,460.83, slightly off a new high of 4,461.77. The Nasdaq moved higher to settle at 14,816.26, gaining 51.13 points or 0.35 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets finished the day mixed. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index ended down 0.37 percent, the German DAX Index rose 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index climbed 0.36 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower Thursday on concerns about outlook for energy demand after an International Energy Agency report said oil demand growth will likely ebb in the second half of the year. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for September ended down by $0.16 or 0.2 percent at $69.09 a barrel.

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