Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades




Asian stock markets are mixed on Friday after the World Health Organization or WHO said it is still too early to declare the coronavirus outbreak in China a global public health emergency.


Nevertheless, investors are cautious amid worries over the rapid spread of the deadly virus. Japan's health ministry confirmed a second case of the coronavirus in the country. The death toll in China has now risen to 25, while the number of confirmed cases jumped to 830.


The Australian market is advancing following the mostly positive cues from Wall Street.


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 24.60 points or 0.35 percent to 7,112.60, after touching a high of 7,122.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 24.50 points or 0.34 percent to 7,223.50. Australian stocks declined on Thursday.


The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank - are higher in a range of 0.7 percent to 1.0 percent.


Healthcare stocks are higher amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China. Biotechnology firm CSL is advancing 1 percent, while Ansell is higher by more than 1 percent, Ramsay Healthcare is adding 0.6 percent and Sonic Healthcare is rising 0.4 percent.


Gold miners are mixed even as gold prices rose to a more than three-week high overnight. Newcrest Mining is rising 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is declining 0.5 percent.


Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is losing almost 2 percent, BHP is declining more than 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.2 percent.


Oil stocks are also mostly lower after crude oil prices fell to an eight-week low overnight. Oil Search is lower by almost 2 percent and Woodside Petroleum is edging down 0.1 percent, while Santos is adding 0.1 percent.


Shares of Insurance Australia Group are losing almost 6 percent after the company said it has received more than 28,000 claims of home and vehicle damage from hailstorms this week and expects these to result in a pre-tax cost of A$169 million. The insurer also lowered its fiscal 2020 insurance profit margin outlook.


In the currency market, the Australian dollar was quoted at $0.6842 on Friday, down from $0.6859 on Thursday.


The Japanese market slipped into negative territory after opening higher.


The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 12.77 points or 0.05 percent to 23,782.67, after rising to a high of 23,869.38 in early trades. Japanese shares hit two-week lows on Thursday.


Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is rising 0.3 percent, while Fast Retailing is down 0.2 percent.


Among tech stocks, Advantest is lower by more than 2 percent, while Tokyo Electron is edging higher by 0.1 percent.


The major exporters are mostly lower on a stronger safe-haven yen. Sony is declining 0.8 percent, while Canon is lower by 0.5 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.2 percent, while Panasonic is advancing almost 1 percent.


Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is losing more than 1 percent and Toyota Motor is edging down 0.1 percent.


In the oil sector, Inpex is declining more than 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent.


Among the other major decliners, Toho Zinc is losing almost 3 percent, Pacific Metals is lower by more than 2 percent and Isuzu Motors is declining almost 2 percent.


On the economic front, Japan will see inflation figures for December, preliminary January results for the manufacturing PMI from Nikkei, as well as the services and composite indexes from Jibun today.


In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 109 yen-range on Friday.


Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Hong Kong are also lower, while Singapore and Indonesia are little changed with a positive bias. The markets in China, South Korea and Taiwan are closed on Friday for the Lunar New Year holidays.


On Wall Street, stocks recovered on Thursday after seeing early weakness amid lingering concerns about the impact of the Chinese coronavirus. Stocks showed a notable recovery after the World Health Organization said it is still too early to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. A steep drop by shares of Travelers helped keep the Dow in the red after the insurance giant reported fourth quarter earnings and revenues that beat estimates but slightly weaker than expected net premiums written.


While the Dow edged down 26.18 points or 0.1 percent to 29,160.06, the Nasdaq rose 18.71 points or 0.2 percent to 9,402.48 and the S&P 500 inched up 3.79 points or 0.1 percent to 3,325.54.


The major European markets moved to the downside on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.7 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both slid by 0.9 percent.


Crude oil prices declined sharply on Thursday, as concerns over the outlook for energy demand following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China outweighed data showing a drop in U.S. crude stockpiles. WTI crude for March ended down $1.15 or about 2 percent to $55.59 a barrel, the lowest settlement in about eight weeks.




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