(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are trading higher on Thursday, tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages closed with strong gains overnight following a positive reaction to the minutes of the Federal Reserve's April meeting. Reports showing improvements in Chinese and Japanese manufacturing activity are also aiding sentiment.
In the Australian market, energy, mining, information technology, industrial and healthcare stocks are notably higher. Besides positive global cues, a recovery in iron ore prices is contributing to the market's rise.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 60.7 points or 1.1 percent at 5,485.3. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,462.0, up 58.1 points or 1.1 percent from its previous close.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are moving up 1.2 to 1.6 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up by about 0.6 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is adding nearly a percent and Bank of Queensland is up 0.3 percent.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is higher by 1.7 percent, Rio Tinto (RIO) is advancing 2.5 percent, Fortescue Metals is up nearly 3 percent and Newcrest Mining is up 0.3 percent.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Origin Energy, Oil Search, Santos and Caltex Australia are up 1.3 to 2.5 percent.
Alumina (AWC) is moving up nearly 7 percent, Arrium is higher by about 6 percent and Challenger is advancing 5 percent.
Qantas Airways is rising 3.7 percent. James Hardie Industries is higher by 3.6 percent on strong financial results. Ansell, Bluescope Steel, Perpetual, Ramsay Healthcare, DuluxGroup, Mineral Resources, Cochlear, ALS, Primary Healthare, Henderson Group and Monadelphous Group are up 2 to 3 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened slightly higher against the U.S. dollar. The local unit is currently trading at US$0.9263, up 0.3 percent from Wednesday's close of US$0.9234.
The Japanese stock market rallied sharply, with a stronger dollar and the overnight gains on Wall Street prompting investors to indulge in some hectic buying at several counters. Encouraging reports on Chinese and Japanese manufacturing activity also contributed to the surge.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 225 points or 1.6 percent at 14,267.2 at the end of the morning session.
Suzuki Motor, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Okuma Corp., Toyo Seikan Group Holdings, Mitsubishi Logistics, MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, Nippon Paper Industries and Hino Motors moved up 3.5 to 4.5 percent.
Tosoh Corp., Nomura Holdings, Mitsubishi Motors, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Trend Micro, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Casio Computers, Richo Co., Advantest Corp. ( ATE ), Daiwa Securities Group and Oki Electric Industry were all up over 3 percent at the break.
Meanwhile, Kansai Electric Power declined 3.7 percent. Nisshin Steel, Toshiba Corp., Inpex Corp., Daiwa House Industry, Japan Steel Works, Chubu Electric Power and Yahoo Japan were down 0.6 to 1.5 percent.
On the economic front, an index measuring manufacturing activity in Japan touched a two-month high, coming in at a seasonally adjusted score of 49.9 in May, Markit Economics said Thursday. That's up from 49.4 in April, although it remains just below the mark of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.
Among the individual components of the survey, the manufacturing output index came in at 49.2 - also hitting a two-month high and up from 46.2 in the previous month.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid 101 yen-range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 101.52 to the U.S. dollar, down from Wednesday's close of 100.95 yen per dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan are trading notably higher. Shanghai, Singapore and New Zealand are up with modest gains, while Malaysia is down marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended with solid gains on Wednesday, following the release of the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting. Traders seemed to react positively to the fact that the minutes did not provide any indication that an interest rate hike is imminent.
The major averages closed firmly in positive territory, near their best levels of the day. The Dow jumped 158.8 points or 1 percent to 16,533.1, the Nasdaq advanced 34.7 points or 0.9 percent to 4,131.5 and the S&P 500 climbed 15.2 points or 0.8 percent at 1,888.0.
Major European markets too closed higher on Wednesday. While the German DAX index climbed by 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index moved up 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil soared for a fourth straight session to end at a one-month high on Wednesday, after an official weekly oil report from the Energy Information Administration showed a massive, more-than-expected drop in U.S. crude oil stockpiles.
Oil prices further moved up following the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's April policy meet, which showed little clarity as to when the Fed will hike its benchmark interest rate from the current near zero level.
Crude for July delivery ended up $1.74 or 1.7 percent at $104.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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