Asian Markets Exhibit Mixed Trend

Asian stock markets are mixed on Wednesday despite the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street after the S&P 500 Index rose to an all-time high.

Investors remained cautious due to the deadlock in the negotiations for a coronavirus stimulus package in the U.S. and as they looked ahead to the release today of minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting for any clues to policy changes at the Fed’s next meeting in September.

The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session following the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Upbeat earnings results from local companies helped boost sentiment.

Investors also digested news that the Australian government has entered into a deal with UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca for the supply of a coronavirus vaccine to Australia.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 26.30 points or 0.43 percent to 6,149.70, after touching a high of 6,154.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 29.60 points or 0.47 percent to 6,298.30. Australian stocks closed higher on Tuesday.

The big four banks are higher. ANZ Banking is rising more than 1 percent and Commonwealth Bank is higher by almost 1 percent, while Westpac and National Australia Bank are up 0.3 percent each.

ANZ Banking reported a statutory profit of A$1.3 billion for the third quarter and said it will pay an interim dividend to shareholders.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto are advancing more than 1 percent each, while BHP Group is down 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, gold miners are weak even as gold prices rose overnight. Newcrest Mining is declining more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is down almost 1 percent.

Oil stocks are also declining after crude oil prices dipped overnight. Oil Search is losing more than 2 percent, while Santos and Woodside Petroleum are lower by almost 1 percent each.

CSL reported a more than 9 percent increase in full-year profit to more than $2.0 billion on higher revenues and said it is continuing to work with the University of Queensland on the development of a coronavirus vaccine. The biotech giant’s shares are gaining almost 6 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see July results for the leading economic index from Westpac Bank today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.7242, up from Tuesday’s close of $0.7210.

The Japanese market recovered after a weak start and is modestly higher following the mostly positive cues from Wall Street. Investors also digested mixed Japanese economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 42.45 points or 0.18 percent to 23,093.53, after falling to a low of 22,953.60 in early trades. The Japanese market closed lower on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is advancing almost 2 percent, while Fast Retailing is edging down 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Canon is adding 0.3 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging up 0.1 percent, while Sony is declining more than 2 percent and Panasonic is down more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by more than 1 percent. In the financial sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are down 0.2 percent each.

Among automakers, Honda Motor is up 0.2 percent, while Toyota is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is down 0.3 percent, while Inpex is adding 0.4 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, NEC Corp. is rising more than 3 percent, while Fujitsu, Trend Micro and Furukawa Electric are higher by more than 2 percent each.

Conversely, Fukuoka Financial and IHI Corp. are losing more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the total value of core machine orders in Japan declined 7.6 percent on month in June, coming in at 706.6 billion yen. That missed expectations for a decline of 2.0 percent following the 1.7 percent increase in May.

Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 11.64 billion yen in July. That blew away expectations for a deficit of 77.6 billion yen following the 268.8 billion yen shortfall in June.

Exports slumped 19.2 percent on year, beating forecasts for a decline of 21.0 percent following the 26.2 percent drop in the previous month. Imports were down an annual 22.3 percent versus expectations for a decline of 22.8 percent following the 14.4 percent slide a month earlier.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and Taiwan are also higher, while Shanghai, New Zealand and Indonesia are lower. Singapore and Malaysia are flat with a negative bias.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 shook off early weakness and finished firmly in the green, while the Dow languished in negative territory. Boeing and financials continued to weigh the Dow, while tech shares supported the Nasdaq. Traders were generally in a holding pattern ahead of tomorrow’s release of minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting, which may provide clues to future moves.

The Dow fell 66.84 points or 0.24 percent to finish at 27,778.07, while the Nasdaq jumped 81.12 points or 0.73 percent to end at 11,210.84 and the S&P 500 rose 7.79 points or 0.23 percent to close at a record high of 3,389.78.

The major European stock markets closed modestly lower on Tuesday. Germany’s DAX slipped 38.90 points or 0.30 percent to 12,881.76, while UK’s FTSE sank 50.82 points or 0.83 percent to 6,076.62 and the CAC 40 in France fell 33.88 points or 0.68 percent to 4,938.06.

Crude oil prices fell on Tuesday as the rising number of coronavirus cases around the world threatened to jeopardize a recovery in fuel demand. WTI crude declined $0.16 or 0.38 percent at $42.57 per barrel.

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