Asian Markets Advance On Recovery Optimism

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday following the record closing highs on Wall Street Friday and as a slowdown in the rate of coronavirus infections as well as the accelerated coronavirus vaccine rollouts worldwide boosted optimism about the global economic recovery. The markets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong remain closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The Australian market is advancing following the positive cues from Wall Street Friday and on domestic upbeat corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 53.20 points or 0.78 percent to 6,859.90, after rising to a high of 6,877.10. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 56.70 points or 0.80 percent to 7,138.00. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are all advancing more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher after crude oil prices rose to a one-year high on Friday. Oil Search is rising more than 2 percent, Santos is higher by more than 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1 percent.

The big four banks are also mostly higher. National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac are higher in a range of 1.4 percent to 1.8 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is down 0.4 percent.

ANZ Banking said it will shut 19 branches across Victoria, NSW and Queensland, following the shift by consumers to digital banking.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower on Friday. Newcrest Mining is rising more than 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is down 0.4 percent.

Seven West Media said it has agreed to form a long-term partnership with Alphabet Inc.’s Google to provide news content to the Google Showcase product launched in Australia in early February. The company also reported a more than 26 percent surge in first-half underlying net profit after tax. Seven West Media’s shares are gaining more than 6 percent.

JB Hi-Fi reported an 86 percent surge in first-half net profit on 24 percent growth in sales and also increased the interim dividend. The retailer’s shares are gaining more than 2 percent.

Crown Resorts said its chief executive and managing director Ken Barton has stepped down from the company. Chair Helen Coonan will assume the role of executive chairman while a search is initiated for a new CEO. The company’s shares are adding 0.4 percent.

The Japanese market is notably higher, with the benchmark Nikkei index breaching the 30,000 mark for the first time in more than three decades, following the record closing highs on Wall Street Friday. Upbeat Japanese GDP data and news that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine received approval in Japan also boosted sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 290.10 points or 0.98 percent to 29,810.17, after touching a high of 30,006.46 earlier.

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

The major exporters are also mostly higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is higher by almost 2 percent, Sony is advancing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.5 percent, while Canon is declining almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising almost 1 percent and Tokyo Electron is up 0.5 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are rising almost 2 percent each.

Among the other major gainers, Ebara Corp. is climbing more than 14 percent and Olympus Corp. is gaining more than 13 percent. Inpex, Hitachi Construction and Hino Motors are all higher by more than 4 percent each.

Conversely, Toho Zinc is losing more than 7 percent and Rakuten is lower by more than 6 percent. Subaru Corp., Mitsui E&S and Nissan Motor are all declining more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report that Japan’s gross domestic product expanded a seasonally adjusted 3.0 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 2.3 percent following the 5.3 percent gain in the previous three months.

Japan also will see final December figures for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 105 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea is advancing more than 1 percent, while Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are also higher. Meanwhile, New Zealand is lower. The markets in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong remain closed for the Lunar New Year.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in a lackluster performance for much of the trading day on Friday, but moved to the upside late in the session. Profit taking contributed to modest weakness early in session, although selling pressure remained subdued. Traders largely shrugged off a preliminary report from the University of Michigan showing an unexpected deterioration in U.S. consumer sentiment in the month of February.

The Dow underperformed its counterparts but still closed modestly higher, inching up 27.70 points or 0.1 percent to 31,458.40. The Nasdaq climbed 69.70 points or 0.5 percent to 14,095.47 and the S&P 500 rose 18.45 points or 0.5 percent at 3,934.83.

The major European markets also closed higher on Friday. While the German DAX Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.6 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.9 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Friday, rebounding from early losses, as tensions in the Middle East raised the possibility of disruptions in crude supplies. Crude for March delivery jumped $1.23 or about 2.1 percent to $59.47 a barrel, the highest closing level in over a year.

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