Asian Markets Trading Mixed

Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Friday, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, amid ongoing concerns about the outlook for interest rates following recent economic data. Traders are also looking to pick up stocks at a bargain following the recent weakness. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

The Australian stock market is notably higher on Friday, extending the slight gains in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 moving to near the 7,300 level, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, with gains in mining and energy stocks amid firmer metals prices and higher crude oil prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 29.90 points or 0.41 percent to 7,285.30, after touching a high of 7,288.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 26.80 points or 0.36 percent to 7,486.80. Australian markets ended slightly higher on Thursday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and Mineral Resources are gaining almost 1 percent each, while OZ Minerals and Fortescue Metals are edging up 0.1 to 0.2 percent each. Rio Tinto is adding more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks are higher. Beach energy, Woodside Energy and Santos are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Origin Energy is flat.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay owner Block is surging more than 4 percent and Xero is edging up 0.1 percent, while WiseTech Global and Zip are adding almost 2 percent each. Appen is edging down 0.4 percent.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are edging up 0.2 to 0.3 percent each.

Gold miners are mostly lower. Northern Star Resources is edging down 0.4 percent, Gold Road Resources is losing more than 2 percent and Evolution Mining is declining more than 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining and Resolute Mining are gaining almost 1 percent each.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia bounced back up into expansion in February, the latest survey from Judo Bank revealed on Friday with a services PMI score of 50.7. That’s up from 48.6 in January, and it moves back above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that the composite PMI improved to 50.6 in February from 48.5 in January.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.674 on Friday.

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Friday, recouping the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 moving to a tad below the 27,900 level, following the broadly positive cues from global markets overnight, with gains in exporters and financial stocks. Tokyo inflation figures also came in lower than estimated.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 27,898.37, up 399.50 points or 1.45 percent, after touching a high of 27,910.36 earlier. Japanese stocks closed slightly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing more than 1 percent, while Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is gaining almost 3 percent. Among automakers, Honda is gaining more than 1 percent and Toyota is gaining almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest and Screen Holdings are edging up 0.4 to 0.5 percent each, while Tokyo Electron is edging down 0.2 percent.

In the banking sector, Mizuho Financial is gaining almost 1 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are adding more than 1 percent each.

Among major exporters, Canon is edging up 0.2 percent each, while Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are advancing more than 1 percent each. Panasonic is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among the other major gainers, OKUMA is surging almost 6 percent and Marubeni is gaining more than 4 percent, while Hoya, Daiichi Sankyo, Fujitsu and Kobe Steel are adding almost 4 percent each. Murata Manufacturing, Hitachi Zosen, Mitsui & Co. and Hitachi Construction are advancing more than 3 percent each, while Japan Exchange Group is up almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Otsuka Holdings is losing almost 6 percent.

In economic news, overall consumer prices in the Tokyo region of Japan were up 3.4 percent on year in February, the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said on Friday. That was lower than expectations for an annual gain of 4.2 percent and was down from 4.4 percent in January. Core CPI, which excludes the volatile costs of food, was up 3.3 percent on year – in line with forecasts and down from 4.3 percent in the previous month.

The unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent in January, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Friday. That was beneath expectations for 2.5 percent, which would have been unchanged from the December reading. The jobs-to-applicant ratio was 1.35 – unchanged from the previous month but shy of forecasts for 1.36. The participation rate was 62.2 percent, missing forecasts for 62.3 percent, which would have been unchanged.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 136 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are higher by between 0.4 and 0.5 percent each, New Zealand, South Korea and Malaysia are lower by between 0.2 and 0.4 percent each. China and Indonesia are relatively flat.

On Wall Street, stocks indexes all moved notably higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday after moving in opposite directions early in the session.

The Dow outperformed its counterparts throughout the session and closed up 341.73 points or 1.1 percent at 33,003.57, adding to the slight uptick seen in Wednesday’s session. The tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 83.50 points or 0.7 percent to 11,462.98, while the S&P 500 advanced 29.96 points or 0.8 percent to 3,981.35.

The major European markets all also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.4 percent and the German DAX Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices climbed higher on Thursday, extending gains from the previous session as optimism about higher demand from China outweighed concerns about inflation and interest rate hikes. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for April settled at $78.16 a barrel, gaining $0.47 or 0.6 percent.

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