Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Investors are optimistic that the new Biden administration’s potential spending increase will spur growth in the world’s largest economy.

The Australian market is rising for a third straight day after U.S. stocks closed at record highs overnight and as data showed that Australia’s unemployment rate fell in December.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 40.30 points or 0.60 percent to 6,810.70, after touching a high of 6,829.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 41.60 points or 0.59 percent to 7,092.60.

Tech stocks are notably higher after their U.S. peers gained overnight. Afterpay is rising almost 6 percent, WiseTech Global is advancing almost 5 percent and Appen is edging up 0.1 percent.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank is rising almost 2 percent, and Westpac is advancing more than 1 percent, while ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are adding almost 1 percent each.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices rose overnight. Newcrest Mining is higher by more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is up 0.6 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is adding 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto is rising 0.4 percent, while Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.3 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly lower even as crude oil prices advanced overnight. Oil Search is declining almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is down 0.5 percent, while Santos is adding 0.4 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent in December. That was below expectations for 6.7 percent and down from 6.8 percent in November.

The Australian economy added 50,000 jobs last month, in line with expectations following the addition of 90,000 jobs in the previous month.

Australia will also see January’s inflation forecast from TD Securities today.

The Japanese market is rising as investors looked ahead to the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy decision due later today. The BoJ is widely expected to keep its benchmark lending rate unchanged at -0.1 percent.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 213.45 points or 0.75 percent to 28,736.71, after touching a high of 28,846.15 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is rising more than 3 percent and Fast Retailing is adding 0.6 percent. In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are declining more than 1 percent each.

The major exporters are mostly higher despite a stronger yen. Panasonic is rising almost 5 percent, Canon is adding 0.3 percent and Sony is up 0.2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.5 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down 0.2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is rising more than 2 percent and Toyota is adding almost 1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Dentsu Group is gaining almost 6 percent, Minebea Mitsumi is rising almost 5 percent, Mitsubishi Chemical is higher by more than 4 percent and Nippon Express is advancing more than 3 percent.

Conversely, Screen Holdings, Tokai Carbon and Bandai Namco are lower by almost 2 percent each.

In economic news, Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 751.01 billion yen in December. That was shy of expectations for a surplus of 942.8 billion yen but up from 366.8 billion yen in November.

Exports rose 2.0 percent on year at 6.706 trillion yen, missing forecasts for an increase of 2.4 percent following the 4.2 percent decline in the previous month. Imports sank an annual 11.6 percent to 5.955 trillion yen versus expectations for a decline of 14.0 percent following the 11.1 percent drop a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 103 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan is rising more than 2 percent, while Shanghai and South Korea are advancing almost 1 percent each. Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong are also higher. Indonesia and Malaysia are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs on Wednesday on upbeat corporate earnings results and as former Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Biden has called for additional stimulus and an accelerated coronavirus vaccine rollout, which has helped offset concerns about higher taxes and increased regulation under a Democratic administration.

The Dow advanced 257.86 points or 0.8 percent to 31,188.38, the Nasdaq soared 260.07 points or 2 percent to 13,457.25 and the S&P 500 jumped 52.94 points or 1.4 percent to 3,851.85.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday amid hopes the Joe Biden administration will step up stimulus to boost growth, which in turn will result in increased demand for energy. WTI crude for February ended up $0.26 or about 0.5 percent at $53.24 a barrel on expiration day. WTI crude futures new front-month contract for March settled at $53.31 a barrel, gaining $0.33 or about 0.6 percent for the session.

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