Asian Markets Mostly Higher Amid Cautious Trade

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday, despite the slightly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as a continued pullback in treasury yields reflects easing worries about inflation. However, traders are cautious and refraining from making major moves amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases in most markets in the region, particularly in India and Japan. Asian markets closed mostly higher on Tuesday.

The Australian stock market is slightly higher after recouping early losses on Wednesday, extending the gains of the previous three sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 above the 7,100 level, despite the slightly negative cues overnight from Wall Street. Strong gains in gold mining and technology stocks are offsetting weakness in materials, financial and energy stocks.

Meanwhile, the markets opened lower as traders were concerned over the spike in new coronairus cases in Melbourne and regional Victoria. The outbreak in Victoria has reached a count of 15.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 7.60 points or 0.11 percent to 7,122.80, after hitting a low of 7,090.10 and a high of 7,136.40 in early trades earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 10.90 points or 0.15 percent to 7,360.00. Australian stocks ended notably higher on Tuesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group, Mineral Resources and Rio Tinto are losing almost 2 percent each, while OZ Minerals is declining almost 3 percent and Fortescue Metals is down almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Afterpay is adding almost 3 percent, Xero is rising more than 2 percent, Appen is up almost 1 percent and WiseTech Global is gaining more than 4 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac and National Australia Bank are edging down 0.1 percent each, while ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are edging up 0.2 percent each.

Gold miners are higher as gold prices climbed overnight. Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources are gaining almost 3 percent each, while Resolute Mining is up almost 1 percent, Newcrest Mining is adding more than 2 percent and Gold Road Resources is rising more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks were lower after crude oil prices were flat. Oil Search and Origin Energy are edging down 0.5 percent each, while Santos, Beach energy and Woodside Petroleum are losing more than 1 percent each.

In other news, shares in ALS are surging more than 8 percent after the Lab testing operator recorded a revenue drop of 5 percent over the first year of the pandemic, and an underlying profit drop of just 1.5 percent to $185.9 million. It also raised its final dividend to 14.6 cents, partially franked, up from 6.1 cents a year ago.

ASX deputy CEO Peter Hiom has resigned after 23 years with the market operator to join global tech investor Motive Partners. Hiom would leave the company on July 1.

In economic news, the value of total construction work done in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent on quarter in the first three months of 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday – coming in at A$51.975 billion. That beat expectations for an increase of 2.2 percent following the upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in the three months prior (originally -0.9 percent). On a yearly basis, the value of total construction work fell 1.1 percent.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.778 on Wednesday.

The Japanese stock market is slightly higher after recouping early losses on Wednesday, extending the gains of the previous three sessions, with the benchmark Nikkei index staying above the 28,600 mark, despite the slightly negative cues overnight from Wall Street. Traders also continue to be cautious amid the accelerating daily coronavirus infection rates caused by highly contagious variants of the virus and the slow vaccine roll out.

The Japanese government is mulling tougher measures to contain the daily coronavirus case rate and will decide this weekend on extending the COVID-19 state of emergency into June.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,604.47, up 50.49 points or 0.18 percent, after hitting a low of 28,396.62 and a high of 28,710.83 earlier. Japanese stocks closed notably higher on Tuesday.

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

In the tech space, Screen Holdings is gaining almost 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.2 percent, while Advantest is edging down 0.2 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is losing more than 1 percent, Mizuho Financial is down almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining almost 2 percent.

Among the major exporters, Panasonic is gaining more than 3 percent and Sony is adding almost 1 percent, while Canon is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Z Holdings, Casio Computer and IHI are gaining almost 5 percent each, while Recruit Holdings, Keisei Electric Railway and Ricoh are adding almost 3 percent each. Isuzu Motors and Shiseido are up more than 2 percent each, while Japan Steel Works, Sumco, NTT Data, ANA Holdings and GS Yuasa are adding almost 2 percent each.

Conversely, Nippon Steel and Tokai Carbon are losing more than 4 percent each, while JFE Holdings is down almost 4 percent. Japan Post Holdings and CyberAgent are declining more than 3 percent, while Kobe Steel and Oji Holdings are lower by almost 3 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 108 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and Taiwan are flat, while New Zealand is losing 0.3 percent. China and Hong Kong are higher by 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. The markets in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are closed for Vesak Day.

On Wall Street, stocks moved to the upside early in the trading day on Tuesday but failed to sustain the advance and showed a lack of direction over the course of the session. The major averages spent much of the day lingering near the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the session modestly lower. The Dow dipped 81.52 points or 0.2 percent to 34,312.46, the Nasdaq edged down 4.00 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 13,657.17 and the S&P 500 slipped 8.92 points or 0.2 percent to 4,188.13

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the German DAX Index edged up by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index both fell by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil futures settled marginally higher on Tuesday, with traders closely following the ongoing negotiations with regard to the Iran nuclear deal. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for July edged up $0.02 to $66.07 a barrel.

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