Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades

Asian stock markets are mixed on Friday amid cautious trades after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that while Democrats and the White House continued to make progress toward an agreement on a new stimulus bill, it will “take a while to write the bill.” Worries about the surge in coronavirus cases in several parts of Europe and the U.S. also weighed on the markets.

The Australian market is extending losses from the previous session. Gains by banks and oil stocks were offset by weakness in mining stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 16.90 points or 0.27 percent to 6,156.90, after touching a low of 6,149.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 18.50 points or 0.29 percent to 6,365.20. Australian stocks closed modestly lower on Thursday.

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

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices fell overnight. Newcrest Mining is losing more than 2 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by more than 1 percent.

Meanwhile, oil stocks are higher after crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search and Santos are rising almost 2 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.7 percent.

Qantas Airways said its first-quarter earnings were negatively impacted by A$100 million due to the unexpected state-border closures in July. At its annual general meeting today, the airline added it aims to save A$600 million this year to stay viable. Shares of Qantas are rising more than 2 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from IHS Markit revealed that the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in October, albeit at a slower pace, with a manufacturing PMI score of 54.2. That’s down from 55.4 in September, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The Japanese market is little changed after opening higher following the positive cues from Wall Street.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is edging up 5.03 points or 0.02 percent to 23,479.30, after touching a high of 23,570.04 in early trades. Japanese stocks closed lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is down 0.2 percent, while Fast Retailing is advancing more than 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Canon is advancing more than 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.2 percent, while Sony is declining 0.6 percent and Panasonic is down 0.5 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.3 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is rising 0.4 percent, while Toyota is lower by 0.2 percent.

In the tech space, Tokyo Electron is losing almost 2 percent and Advantest is declining almost 1 percent.

Shares of FamilyMart Co. are down 0.2 percent. The convenience store operator’s shareholders on Thursday approved a plan for trading house Itochu Corp. to take FamilyMart private.

Among the other major gainers, Yokohama Rubber is rising more than 4 percent, while Bridgestone Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, ANA Holdings and Chugai Pharmaceutical are all higher by more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, Z Holdings is losing more than 3 percent, Cyberagent is lower by almost 3 percent and Aeon Co. is declining almost 2 percent.

In economic news, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed that the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to contract in October, albeit at a slower pace, with a manufacturing PMI score of 48.0. That’s up 47.7 in September, although it remains beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that consumer prices in Japan were down a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent on month in September. That was in line with expectations and unchanged from the August reading.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 104 yen-range on Friday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Democrats and the White House continued to make progress toward an agreement on a new stimulus bill. Pelosi told reporters the two sides are “just about there” on certain provisions, but noted they have not agreed on issues such as state and local aid. Upbeat U.S. economic data added to the positive sentiment, with a report from the Labor Department showing initial jobless claims came in well below economist estimates in the week ended October 17.

The Nasdaq edged up 21.31 points or 0.2 percent to 11,506.01, while the Dow climbed 152.84 points or 0.5 percent to 28,363.66 and the S&P 500 rose 17.93 points or 0.5 percent to 3,453.49.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index crept up by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Thursday, rebounding from losses in the previous session despite data showing a surge in gasoline stockpiles and uncertainty around a U.S. stimulus deal. WTI crude for December ended up $0.63 or about 1.4 percent at $40.64 a barrel.

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