Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday despite the mostly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as investors shrugged off worries about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

While the cumulative death toll in China related to the coronavirus outbreak topped 2,000, new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on the mainland has declined on Tuesday from a day earlier.

The Australian market is little changed following the mostly negative cues from Wall Street and as investors digested mixed local corporate earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is down 4.40 points or 0.06 percent to 7,109.30 after rising to a high of 7,125.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is declining 4.50 points or 0.06 percent to 7,203.80. Australian stocks closed modestly lower on Tuesday.

The major miners are mostly lower. BHP is declining more than 1 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.4 percent.

Fortescue Metals reported a near four-fold surge in half-year profit and raised its interim dividend. The miner’s shares are advancing more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank is declining almost 1 percent and Westpac is losing 0.7 percent, while ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are edging down 0.1 percent each.

Meanwhile, gold miners are notably higher after gold prices surged to a near seven-year high. Evolution Mining is higher by more than 4 percent and Newcrest Mining is gaining more than 3 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher even as crude oil prices ended flat overnight. Santos is rising 0.7 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.5 percent, while Oil Search is unchanged.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises reported a nearly 30 percent increase in first-half profit and raised its interim dividend. The fast food company’s shares are gaining almost 12 percent.

Wesfarmers reported a 6 percent increase in net profit from continuing operations not including leasing standards, but slashed its interim dividend payout. The conglomerate’s shares are rising more than 3 percent.

Caltex Australia said British retailer EG Group has offered to acquire the company for A$3.9 billion cash as well as separate shares to be issued in Ampol, a newly listed company on the ASX. Shares of Caltex Australia are advancing almost 1 percent.

Corporate Travel Management said its first-half net profit declined 14 percent from last year despite higher revenues and lowered its full-year underlying earnings outlook due to the disruption from the coronavirus on international travel. The company’s shares are higher by more than 3 percent.

Webjet said its statutory net profit for the first half fell 64 percent from last year on a write-off related to collapsed British travel group Thomas Cook, while revenue grew 24 percent. The travel agent’s shares are gaining more than 6 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is unchanged against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6691.

The Japanese market is rising despite the mostly negative cues from Wall Street and lingering fears about the coronavirus epidemic. Investors also digested mixed local economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 100.63 points or 0.43 percent to 23,294.43, after touching a high of 23,349.65 earlier. Japanese stocks closed lower on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is advancing more than 1 percent and Fast Retailing is adding 0.4 percent. In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are higher by more than 1 percent each.

The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Sony is adding almost 1 percent and Panasonic is unchanged, while Canon is declining 0.2 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among auto stocks, Toyota Motor is losing 0.5 percent and Honda Motor is lower by 0.2 percent. In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is declining more than 1 percent, while Inpex is adding 0.2 percent after crude oil prices closed unchanged on Tuesday.

Among the major gainers, Nisshin Seifun is gaining more than 4 percent, Chughai Pharmaceutical is rising 3 percent and Daiichi Sankyo is higher by almost 3 percent.

Conversely, Kobe Steel is losing more than 3 percent, while Dentsu Group and Daiwa House are lower by almost 3 percent each.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said that the value of core machine orders in Japan was down 12.5 percent on month in December, coming in at 824.8 billion yen. That missed forecasts for a decline of 8.9 percent following the 18.0 percent surge in November.

The Ministry of Finance said Japan posted a merchandise trade deficit of 1,312.6 billion yen in January. That beat estimates for a shortfall of 1,684.8 billion yen following the 154.6 billion yen deficit in December.

Exports were down 2.6 percent on year, beating expectations for a decline of 7.0 percent following the 6.3 percent drop in the previous month. Imports slid 3.6 percent on year versus expectations for a fall of 2.0 percent after sinking 4.9 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 109 yen-range on Wednesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed mostly lower on Tuesday as traders returned to their desks following the long holiday weekend. The weakness on Wall Street came after tech giant Apple warned of weaker than previously forecast second quarter revenue. Disappointing earnings news from Walmart also weighed on the markets after the retail giant reported weaker than expected fourth-quarter results and provided disappointing guidance.

The Nasdaq inched up 1.57 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 9,732.74, but the Dow slid 165.69 points or 0.6 percent to 29,232.39 and the S&P 500 fell 9.87 points or 0.3 percent to 3,370.29.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Tuesday. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.5 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index slid by 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures ended flat on Tuesday, with traders weighing the impact of the coronavirus on global energy demand and OPEC and allies’ move on production cuts. WTI crude for March ended at $52.05 a barrel, unchanged from the previous close.

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