Asian Markets Mostly Higher On Global Cues

Asian stock markets are trading mostly higher on Thursday, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, as traders shrugged off concerns over the outlook for interest rates following the release of US inflation data and upbeat US retail sales data. These data will encourage the US Fed to continue aggressively raising interest rates in an effort to combat inflation. Asian Markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday.

However, traders expressed optimism the Fed could still engineer a “soft landing.”

The Australian stock market is significantly higher on Thursday, recouping the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 moving above the 7,400 levels, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, boosted by strong gains in technology stocks. Partially offset by weakness in gold mining and energy stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 55.30 points or 0.75 percent to 7,407.50, after touching a high of 7,422.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 57.60 points or 0.76 percent to 7,616.70. Australian stocks ended significantly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto is gaining almost 1 percent and Mineral Resources is adding more than 2 percent, while Fortescue Metals and BHP Group are edging up 0.3 to 0.5 percent each. OZ Minerals is flat.

Oil stocks are mostly weak. Beach energy is gaining 1.5 percent, while Origin Energy is losing almost 2 percent, Woodside Energy is edging down 0.1 percent and Santos is down 1.5 percent.

In the tech space, Afterpay owner Block is surging more than 8 percent and Zip is advancing more than 5 percent, while Appen, WiseTech Global and Xero are gaining more than 2 percent each.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.5 percent, while Westpac and National Australia Bank are gaining more than 1 percent each. ANZ Banking is edging up 0.4 percent.

Among gold miners, Northern Star Resources, Gold Road Resources and Newcrest Mining are losing almost 2 percent each, while Evolution Mining is slipping almost 3 percent. Resolute Mining is gaining almost 1 percent.

In other news, shares in Sonic Healthcare are skyrocketing almost 12 percent despite the healthcare company posting 54 percent decline in first-half net profit, due to a significant reduction in COVID revenues. However, profits were up strongly on pre-pandemic times.

Shares in AMP plunged almost 14 percent after the wealth manager posted a 34 percent drop in annual underlying profit due to a squeeze on margins at its banking unit.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 3.7 percent in January, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday – higher than expectations for 3.5 percent, which would have been unchanged from December. The Australian economy lost 11,500 jobs last month, badly missing expectations for an increase of 20,000 after shedding 14,600 in the previous month. Full-time employment was down 43,300 jobs after climbing 17,600 a month earlier. The participation rate was 66.5, missing forecasts for 66.6 – which would have been unchanged.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.691 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is significantly higher on Thursday, recouping the losses in the previous session, with the Nikkei 225 moving above the 27,700 level, following the broadly positive cues from global overnight, boosted by gains in some index heavyweights, automakers and technology stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 27,723.60, up 221.74 points or 0.81 percent, after touching a high of 27,723.60 earlier. Japanese stocks closed modestly lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining more than 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding more than 2 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is gaining more than 2 percent and Honda is adding more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Screen Holdings is gaining almost 2 percent, while Advantest and Tokyo Electron are adding more than 1 percent each.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are edging up 0.1 to 0.5 percent each.

Among the major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric and Sony are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Canon is edging up 0.2 percent. Panasonic is flat.

Among the other major gainers, Kansai Electric Power is gaining more than 4 percent, while Mazda Motor and Mitsubishi Motors are adding almost 4 percent each. Nissan Motor and Subaru are advancing more than 3 percent each, while Nintendo is up almost 3 percent.

Conversely, there are no other major losers.

In economic news, Japan posted a merchandise trade deficit of 3,496.6 billion yen in January, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday. That exceeded expectations for a shortfall of 3,871.5 billion yen following the 1,451.8 billion yen deficit in December. Exports were up 3.5 percent on year, beating forecasts for 0.8 percent and down from 11.5 percent in the previous month. Imports climbed an annual 17.8 percent versus forecasts for 18.4 percent, down from 20.7 percent a month earlier.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office said the value of core machine orders in Japan was up a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent on month in December, coming in at 851.9 billion yen. That was shy of expectations for an increase of 3.0 percent following the 8.3 percent drop in November.

On a yearly basis, core machine orders sank 6.6 percent – also missing forecasts for a decline of 6.0 percent following the 3.7 percent decline in the previous month. For the fourth quarter of 2022, orders were down 5.0 percent on quarter and 3.6 percent on year. For the first quarter of 2023, orders are seen higher by 4.3 percent on quarter and 4.1 percent on year.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 133 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong and South Korea are up 2.2 and 1.8 percent, respectively. Singapore is gaining 1.2 percent, while New Zealand, China, Malaysia and Taiwan are higher by between 0.2 and 0.7 percent each. Indonesia is bucking the trend and is down 0.3 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks regained ground over the course of the trading session after an initial move to the downside on Wednesday. The major averages climbed well off their worst levels of the day and eventually closed in positive territory.

The major averages all finished the day higher, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the advance. While the Nasdaq jumped 110.45 points or 0.9 percent to 12,070.59, the S&P 500 rose 11.47 points or 0.3 percent to 4,147.60 and the Dow inched up 38.78 points or 0.1 percent to 34,128.05.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.2 percent, the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil prices came off daily lows but still moved solidly lower on Wednesday, hurt by a stronger U.S. dollar and a spike in U.S. crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate was down $0.47 or 0.6 percent to $78.59 per barrel.

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