Asian Markets Mostly Higher Ahead Of ECB Decision

(RTTNews) - Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street amid gains by tech stocks. Nevertheless, gains are modest in most markets as investors look ahead to monetary policy decisions from the European Central Bank later today and the U.S. Federal Reserve next week.

Worries about the ongoing Japan-South Korea trade tensions and news that North Korea fired two short-range missiles from its east coast into the sea also weighed on investor sentiment.

The Australian market is advancing following the record highs on Wall Street. Investors now look ahead to the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision later in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is rising 14.90 points or 0.22 percent to 6,791.60. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 16.20 points or 0.24 percent to 6,878.60, breaking an all-time high set almost 12 years ago. Australian stocks closed higher on Wednesday.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac - are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent.

ANZ Banking said it has been advised by the ASIC that the corporate watchdog is set to commence civil penalty proceedings against the bank for charging customers certain fees between 2008 and 2016.

Macquarie Bank said its first-quarter performance was in line with expectations, but reaffirmed that its full-year 2020 results are expected to be slightly lower than the prior year. However, the financial services group's shares are adding 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly higher despite a decline in crude oil prices overnight. Santos is rising 0.5 percent and Woodside Petroleum is up 0.2 percent, while Oil Search is down 0.2 percent.

In the mining space, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are losing more than 3 percent each, while BHP Group is declining more than 2 percent.

Fortescue Metals forecast higher iron ore shipments in 2020 compared to the preceding year, but also projected higher costs as it ramps up production.

Gold miners are also weak despite gold prices moving higher overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 3 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Competition or ACCC has expressed concern over ANZ Terminals' proposed acquisition of agribusiness company Graincorp's Australian bulk liquid terminals business, saying it will remove a significant competitor in an already concentrated industry. Shares of Graincorp are losing almost 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6976, compared to $0.6983 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is modestly higher following the record highs on Wall Street. Investors are cautious ahead of monetary policy decisions by the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 62.24 points or 0.29 percent to 21,771.81, after touching a high of 21,823.07 earlier, its highest since May 7. Japanese stocks hit a two-and-a-half week high on Wednesday.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Sony is declining almost 1 percent and Panasonic is down 0.5 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.2 percent.

Shares of Canon are lower by more than 2 percent after the digital camera maker reported a fall in net income for the second quarter and also lowered its fiscal 2019 outlook.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining more than 18 percent and Tokyo Electron is higher by more than 1 percent, following strong gains by their U.S. peers overnight. Advantest reported sales for the quarter ended June that were not as weak as expected.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 2 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported that the telecom giant is expected to announce a $40 billion investment in its new technology fund.

In the auto space, Toyota Motor is up 0.2 percent, while Honda Motor is lower by 0.6 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is declining more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is lower by almost 1 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Cyberagent is gaining almost 8 percent, Shin-Etsu Chemical is higher by almost 7 percent and Screen Holdings is rising almost 4 percent.

On the flip side, Mitsubishi Motors is losing almost 4 percent, while Fuji Electric, Suzuki Motor and Nissan Motor are all lower by more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said that producer prices in Japan were up 0.7 percent on year in June - shy of expectations for 0.8 percent and down from the upwardly revised 0.9 percent gain in May.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 108 yen range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia and Hong Kong are also advancing, while Shanghai and Malaysia are edging higher. South Korea and Taiwan are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 touching new record highs on strong gains by tech stocks and banks. The narrower Dow bucked the uptrend, however, with a steep drop by Caterpillar and Boeing weighing on the blue chip index.

While the Dow fell 79.22 points or 0.3 percent to 27,269.97, the Nasdaq jumped 70.10 points or 0.9 percent to 8,321.50 and the S&P 500 climbed 14.09 points or 0.5 percent to 3,019.56.

The major European markets also turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.2 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil futures ended lower on Wednesday, even as data from the Energy Information Administration showed a much larger than expected drop in crude stockpiles in the U.S. last week. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for September declined $0.89 or about 1.6 percent to close at $55.88 a barrel.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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