Asian Markets Mostly Lower

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(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's January meeting indicated the central bank still plans to raise interest rates three times in 2018. The Chinese market is rallying as it resumed trading after the Lunar New Year holidays.

The Australian market is drifting lower after rising in early trades on upbeat corporate earnings results.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 4.20 points or 0.07 percent to 5,939.50, off a high of 5,973.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 2.50 points or 0.04 percent to 6,044.80.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton is advancing more than 1 percent, while Rio Tinto is down 0.2 percent and Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.1 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is down more than 1 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by almost 1 percent despite gold prices edging higher overnight.

Oil stocks are also mostly lower after crude oil prices edged lower overnight. Oil Search is losing more than 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by almost 3 percent after its shares turned ex-dividend, while Santos shares are rising more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking is up 0.1 percent, while National Australia Bank is edging down less than 0.1 percent. Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are lower by 0.2 percent each.

Nine Entertainment Co.'s shares are gaining more than 18 percent after the television broadcaster reported a turnaround to net profit in the first half of the year on higher revenues.

Shares of Crown Resorts are rising 4 percent despite the casinos operator recording a 33 percent fall in first-half net profit, while revenue rose more than 1 percent.

Qantas Airways said its first-half net profit rose 18 percent and it will return another A$378 million of capital to shareholders in the form of a share buyback. The airline's shares are gaining almost 8 percent.

Blackmores reported a 20 percent increase in first-half profit and also raised its interim dividend, but warned of a soft second half due to "supply issues" and a soft Australian retail market. The vitamin maker's shares are falling more than 14 percent.

Westfield Corp. said its full-year profit rose 14 percent, reflecting revaluation gains from its developments. However, the shopping center giant's shares are down 0.2 percent.

Bellamy's Australia said its first-half net profit more than tripled from last year and revenue surged almost 48 percent. However, the infant formula maker's shares are losing more than 5 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar slipped towards the $0.78 level U.S. dollar on Thursday after the greenback rebounded following the Federal Reserve's January meeting minutes. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7802, down from US$0.7852 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is declining following the weak cues from Wall Street and as a stronger yen dragged shares of exporters lower.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 272.72 points or 1.24 percent to 21,698.09, off a low of 21,626.85 earlier.

The major exporters are weak on a stronger yen. Sony and Panasonic are declining more than 1 percent each, while Canon and Mitsubishi Electric are losing almost 2 percent each. SoftBank is declining more than 1 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is lower by almost 1 percent and Honda is losing almost 2 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are down more than 1 percent each. In the oil space, Inpex is down more than 2 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is losing 3 percent after crude oil prices edged lower overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Otsuka Holdings is rising more than 3 percent, while Nippon Telegraph & Telephone is adding more than 1 percent.

On the flip side, Ricoh is losing more than 5 percent, while Nisshin Steel and Kajima Corp. are declining more than 4 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 107 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are also lower. Shanghai is gaining more than 1 percent as it resumed trading after the Lunar New Year holidays, while New Zealand is advancing 1 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks closed firmly in negative territory on Wednesday after the minutes of the Fed's January meeting indicated the central bank still plans to raise interest rates three times in 2018. The Fed raised its projection for inflation from anemic levels, saying that core personal consumption expenditure index "would rise notably faster this year" from its 1.5 percent rate in December.

The Dow slid 166.97 points or 0.7 percent to 24,797.78, the Nasdaq dipped 16.08 points or 0.2 percent to 7,218.23 and the S&P 500 fell 14.93 points or 0.6 percent to 2,701.33.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.2 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE Index climbed by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil futures inched lower Wednesday as traders locked in profits from oil's recent rally. WTI crude dipped $0.11 to $61.68 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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This article appears in: Politics , World Markets , US Markets , Stocks

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