Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday, following mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. Investors are largely upbeat about a stimulus-fuelled global economic recovery after US President Joe Biden announced a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan. Weakness in energy stocks is offset by support from technology stocks which mirrored the surge by the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Asian markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday.
The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Thursday, extending gains of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 hovering around the 6,800 level, following mixed cues overnight from Wall Street. Weakness in financials and energy stocks were offset by strong gains in gold mining and technology stocks, which mirrored the surge by the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
Meanwhile, the Greater Brisbane lockdown will end at 12 noon today, five hours earlier than originally planned, after Queensland recorded just one new locally acquired coronavirus case on Thursday. However, a number of temporary safety measures will remain in place for all of Queensland.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 25.20 points or 0.37 percent to 6,815.90, after hitting a low of 6,783.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 33.30 points or 0.48 percent to 7,050.30. Australian markets ended notably higher on Wednesday, ending March 1.8 percent higher and the quarter 3.1 percent higher.
Among major miners, Fortescue Metals is up almost 1 percent, BHP Group is edging up 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto is gaining more than 1 percent.
Oil stocks are mostly lower after crude oil prices declined overnight. Oil Search is losing almost 1 percent and Beach Energy is edging down 0.5 percent, while Santos and Woodside Petroleum are flat. Beach Energy is up almost 2 percent.
Among Tech stocks, Appen, Afterpay, Xero and WiseTech Global are all adding almost 2 percent each, while Zip is gaining more than 3 percent.
Among the big four banks, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are edging down 0.3 percent each, while ANZ Banking is flat.
Gold miners are higher after gold soared. Evolution Mining is adding almost 3 percent, while Newcrest Mining, Gold Road Resources and Northern Star Resources are up more than 3 percent each. Resolute Mining is gaining more than 1 percent.
Shares in AMP are surging more than 4 percent after the wealth manage confirmed speculation that CEO Francesco De Ferrari will retire from the role. ANZ deputy chief executive Alexis George will take over once a portfolio review is complete.
Travel booking group Webjet raised $250 million through a convertible note offering to fund acquisitions as the battered travel sector begins its recovery from the pandemic. The stock is plunging more than 5 percent.
In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in March, albeit at a slightly slower pace, the latest survey from Markit Economic showed on Thursday with a seasonally adjusted manufacturing PMI score of 56.8. That’s down marginally from 56.9 in February, although it remains well above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.
Separately, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed on Thursday that the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in March, and at a faster pace, with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 59.9. That’s up from 58.8 in February and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. This was the highest monthly result for the index since March 2018 and a sixth consecutive month of strong recovery.
The value of owner-occupied home loans in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 1.8 percent on month in February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said on Thursday – coming in at A$21.70 billion. That follows the 10.9 percent spike in January. On a yearly basis, owner-occupied home loans surged 55.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the total value of retail sales in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent on month in February, the ABS said – coming in at A$30.300 billion. That beat expectations for a decline of 1.1 percent following the 0.3 percent increase in January. On a yearly basis, retail sales were up 9.1 percent.
The ABS also said Australia had a seasonally adjusted merchandise trade surplus of A$7.529 billion in February. That was shy of expectations for a surplus of A$9.7 billion following the downwardly revised A$9.616 billion surplus in January (originally A$10.142 billion).
In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.757 on Thursday.
The Japanese stock market is significantly higher on Thursday, rebounding after closing the previous session lower, with the Nikkei 225 above the 29,500 level, buoyed by technology stocks which mirrored the surge by the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 29,513.59, up 334.79 points or 1.15 percent, after hitting a low of 29,418.70 in early trades. Japanese shares ended lower on Wednesday.
Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining more than 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is up almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is edging down 0.5 percent and Toyota is losing almost 2 percent.
In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are gaining almost 3 percent each, Screen Holdings is up more than 4 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding more than 1 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging down 0.4 percent.
The major exporters are mostly higher. Mitsubishi Electric is edging up 0.1 percent and Canon is adding 0.4 percent, while Panasonic edging down 0.4 percent. Sony is gaining almost 2 percent.
Among the other major gainers, Dai-ichi Life Holdings is soaring more than 10 percent, Fanuc Corp. is adding more than 5 percent and M3 is up more than 4 percent. Sumco and DeNA are also up more than 3 percent. Nissan Chemical, Yamaha, Chiba Bank, Nexon and Yokogawa Electric are all up almost 3 percent each.
Conversely, Seiko Epson is losing almost 4 percent, while Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings are down almost 3 percent each. Hitachi Zosen, Mitsui E&S Holdings, Aozora Bank, Yokohama Rubber, Nippon Steel, Mitsui & Co., ANA Holdings, Kansai Electric and JFT Holdings are all declining more than 2 percent each.
In economic news, large manufacturing in Japan saw some improvement in the first quarter of 2021, the Bank of Japan’s quarterly Tankan Survey of business sentiment showed on Thursday with a diffusion index score of +5. That beat forecasts for a reading of 0 as expectations were very soft because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The Q1 reading was up from a score of -10 three months ago. The outlook came in at +4, matching expectations and up from -8 in the previous quarter.
Separately, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed on Thursday that the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to expand in March, and at a faster pace, with a seasonally adjusted manufacturing PMI score of 52.7. That’s up from 51.4 in February, and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in higher 110 yen-range on Thursday.
Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Shanghai, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea are all advancing between 0.3 and 0.8 percent each, while Indonesia is relatively flat. New Zealand is bucking the trend and is down 0.9 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks came under pressure going into the close of trading on Wednesday but managed to end the day mostly higher. The tech-heavy Nasdaq posted a particularly strong gain amid a rally by technology stocks.
The Nasdaq jumped 201.48 points or 1.5 percent to 13,246.87 and the S&P 500 rose 14.34 points or 0.4 percent to 3,972.89 after reaching a record intraday high. Meanwhile, the narrower Dow fell 85.41 points or 0.3 percent to 32,981.55.
Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index tumbled by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index closed just below the unchanged line.
Crude oil prices moved sharply lower Wednesday amid concerns about the outlook for energy demand. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May ended down $1.39 or 2.3 percent at $59.16 a barrel.
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