Asian Markets Mostly Higher


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street amid easing U.S.-Iran tensions. Investor sentiment was also boosted after China confirmed that Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington next week to sign the phase one trade deal with the U.S.


Investors now look ahead to the release of the U.S. Labor Department's jobs report for December later in the day.


The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street. Nevertheless, weaker commodity prices weighed on resources stocks.


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 49.40 points or 0.72 percent to 6,923.60, after rising to a high of 6,926.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 46.60 points or 0.67 percent to 7,038.00. Australian stocks closed higher on Thursday.


In the tech sector, Wisetech Global and Appen are rising almost 3 percent each, while Xero is higher by almost 2 percent.


Among consumer staples, Coles Group is advancing almost 2 percent, while Woolworths and Wesfarmers are adding more than 1 percent each, ahead of the release of Australia's retail sales data for November.


In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac Banking are higher in a range of 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent, while National Australia Bank is rising 0.2 percent.

MyState said that its managing director and chief executive Melos Sulicich has informed the company of his decision to resign and will leave the company in July 2020 in accordance with his contract. Shares of the banking and wealth management group are unchanged.

Meanwhile, the major miners are lower. Fortescue Metals is declining more than 1 percent, BHP is lower by 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto is edging down 0.1 percent.


Gold miners declined after gold prices extended losses overnight. Evolution Mining is losing almost 5 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices edged lower overnight. Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are advancing more than 1 percent each, while Santos is adding almost 1 percent.


In economic news, Australia will provide November numbers for retail sales today.


In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6855, compared to $0.6974 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher.


The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 68.80 points or 0.29 percent to 23,808.67, after rising to a high of 23,903.29 earlier. Japanese stocks closed notably higher on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is advancing 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is losing 2 percent after reporting weaker than expected first-quarter results and lowering its full-year outlook.


Among tech stocks, Tokyo Electron and Advantest are rising more than 1 percent each.

iPhone maker Apple's supplier Murata Manufacturing is up 0.3 percent and Alps Alpine is adding 0.4 percent after Chinese government data showed strong iPhone sales in China in December.


The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing more than 1 percent, while Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric are adding 0.3 percent each. Canon is down 0.4 percent.


Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is adding 0.7 percent, while Toyota Motor is edging down 0.1 percent.


In the oil sector, Inpex is declining almost 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum is adding 0.5 percent after crude oil prices edged lower overnight.


Among the major gainers, IHI Corp. is rising more than 4 percent, Seven & I is higher by almost 4 percent and FamilyMart is advancing more than 2 percent ahead of the release of its third-quarter results today.


On the flip side, Cyberagent and Chubu Electric Power are losing more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see preliminary November numbers for its leading and coincident indexes as well as November figures for household spending today.


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


Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are all modestly higher, while Shanghai and Malaysia are lower.


On Wall Street, stocks closed at record highs on Thursday on easing concerns about the conflict between the U.S. and Iran amid signs of de-escalation. Nonetheless, overall trading activity was somewhat subdued ahead of the release of the Labor Department's monthly jobs report on Friday.


The Dow climbed 211.81 points or 0.7 percent to 28,956.90, the Nasdaq advanced 74.18 points or 0.8 percent to 9,203.43 and the S&P 500 rose 21.65 points or 0.7 percent to 3,274.70.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.


Crude oil futures settled near four-week lows on Thursday, as higher U.S. crude inventories and easing worries about the U.S.-Iran standoff pushed down prices for a second straight session. WTI crude for February ended down $0.05 or 0.03 percent at $59.56 a barrel.





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