Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

(RTTNews) - Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday following the overnight gains on Wall Street after the U.S. temporarily eased trade restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

However, gains are modest in most markets amid lingering worries about U.S.-China trade tensions after the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is considering placing limits to Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision's ability to buy U.S. technology. Investors are also cautious as they look ahead to the release of minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting later in the day.

The Australian market is declining after five straight days of gains and despite the positive cues from Wall Street. Gains by oil stocks were more than offset by weakness in mining, bank and tech stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 8.80 points or 0.14 percent to 6,491.30, after falling to a low of 6,488.90 in early trades. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 6.60 points or 0.10 percent to 6,577.80. The Australian market closed higher for a fifth straight day on Tuesday.

The major miners are lower. Fortescue Metals is declining more than 1 percent after its shares traded ex-dividend, while BHP Group is down 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto is losing 0.3 percent.

Fortescue Metals said it will spend about $287 million to develop the Queens Valley mining area in the Pilbara region, noting that the move will enable the company to maintain its Kings Fines low-alumina sinter fines products that suppliers key customers in China, Japan and Korea.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices fell to a nearly three-week low overnight. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are down 0.5 percent each.

The big four banks are lower after two days of strong gains. ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent, while Westpac is edging up 0.1 percent.

Tech stocks are also mostly lower. Afterpay Touch Group is declining more than 1 percent and Altium is down 0.3 percent, while WiseTech Global is adding 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, oil stocks are higher after crude oil prices rose overnight. Woodside Petroleum is advancing almost 1 percent, while Oil Search and Santos are adding 0.2 percent each.

Australian Agricultural Company reported a loss for the full year that widened from last year, reflecting the impact of the floods in North Queensland in February. However, the company reported a profit on an underlying basis. Shares of the company are rising 0.5 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see April results for the Westpac leading index and for skilled vacancies as well as the first-quarter numbers for construction work done.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S dollar on Wednesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6883, up from $0.6879 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market opened higher following the positive cues from Wall Street and on a weaker yen. However, the market has pared initial gains and is now modestly higher amid lingering worries about U.S.-China trade tensions. Investors are also cautious as they digested mixed Japanese economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 47.19 points or 0.22 percent to 21,319.64, after rising to a high of 21,404.54 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Tuesday.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Panasonic is losing 0.8 percent, Sony is declining 0.6 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.3 percent, while Canon is advancing almost 1 percent.

Meanwhile, index heavyweight Softbank is advancing more than 1 percent, while Fanuc and Fast Retailing are rising 0.3 percent each.

Among tech stocks, Advantest is rising more than 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.2 percent. In the auto space, Honda is edging down 0.1 percent and Toyota is lower by 0.2 percent.

Among the major banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding 0.2 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is advancing almost 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum is lower by 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Mitsui E&S is rising 4 percent and Amada Holdings is gaining almost 3 percent. Tokuyama Corp., Fuji Electric and JGC Corp. are higher by more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Suzuki Motor is lower by more than 3 percent, while Toho Co., Yamato Holdings and Sompo Holdings are lower by more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 60.402 billion yen in April, down 90.3 percent on year. That was well shy of expectations for a surplus of 229.5 billion yen and down from 528.5 billion yen in March.

Exports sank 2.4 percent on year to 6.658 trillion yen - missing forecasts for a fall of 1.5 percent after sliding 2.4 percent in the previous month. Imports climbed an annual 6.4 percent to 6.598 trillion yen versus expectations for an increase of 4.6 percent and up from 1.2 percent a month earlier.

The Cabinet Office said that the total value of core machine orders in Japan was up a seasonally adjusted 3.8 percent on month in March, coming in at 868.8 billion yen. That exceeded expectations for a flat reading following the 1.8 percent increase in February.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 110 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are modestly higher, while Shanghai and South Korea are edging lower. The Malaysian market is closed for a holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Tuesday in reaction to news that the U.S. Commerce Department has temporarily eased trade restrictions on Chinese tech giant Huawei. The Commerce Department issued a temporary license authorizing specific, limited engagement in transactions involving the export, re-export, and transfer of items to Huawei for 90 days.

The Dow climbed 197.43 points or 0.8 percent to 25,877.33, the Nasdaq jumped 83.35 points or 1.1 percent to 7,785.72 and the S&P 500 advanced 24.13 points or 0.9 percent to 2,864.36.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index advanced by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.5 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent.

Crude oil prices edged higher on Monday as prospects of a likely fall in supply amid an escalation in tensions in the Middle East and on OPEC's indication that it is likely to maintain production cuts for some more time. WTI crude for June ended up $0.34 or 0.54 percent at $63.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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