Asian Markets Trade Higher In Thin Holiday Trades


Asian stock markets are mostly higher in thin trading on Friday when most of the markets are on Good Friday holiday, following the mixed cues from Wall Street overnight, as traders were reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of US inflation data later in the day that could impact the outlook for interest rates. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

Traders also look ahead to US Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks at a moderated discussion later in the day before the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy Conference.

The Australian stock market is closed for Good Friday on Friday. Australian markets ended significantly higher on Thursday.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.652 on Friday.

Recouping some of the losses in the previous session, the Japanese stock market is significantly higher on Friday, following the mixed cues from Wall Street overnight. The benchmark Nikkei 225 is moving above the 40,400 level, with gains across most sectors led by index heavyweights, exporters and financial stocks. Traders also reacted to some mixed domestic economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at the day’s high of 40,466.82, up 298.75 points or 0.74 percent. Japanese stocks closed sharply lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is edging down 0.1 percent, while Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is gaining almost 2 percent and Toyota is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest and Screen Holdings are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Tokyo Electron is edging up 0.5 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is gaining more than 1 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.4 percent and Mizuho Financial is adding almost 1 percent.

Among major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent, while Canon, Sony and Panasonic are adding almost 1 percent each

Among other major gainers, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is gaining more than 4 percent, while Mitsui Fudosan and Sumitomo Realty & Development are adding almost 4 percent each. Tokyo Tatemono is up more than 3 percent, while Kikkoman, Tokyu Fudosan, Fujitsu, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Tokyo Gas, Obayashi, Taisei, Toppan Holdings, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Olympus and Mitsubishi Estate are advancing almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, there are no other major losers.

In economic news, the total value of retail sales in Japan was up 4.6 percent on year in February, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry or METI said on Friday – coming in at 12.937 trillion yen. That beat forecasts for an increase of 2.8 percent following the downwardly revised 2.1 percent increase in January (originally 2.3 percent). On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, retail sales jumped 1.5 percent after adding 0.2 percent a month earlier.

The METI also said industrial production in Japan was down a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent on month in February. That was well shy of expectations for an increase of 1.2 percent following the 6.7 percent contraction in January. Upon the release of the data, the METI downgraded its assessment of industrial production, saying that it continues to fluctuate indecisively but has weakened. On a yearly basis, production sank 3.4 percent. According to the METI’s forecast of industrial production, output is expected to rise 4.9 percent on month in March and 3.3 percent in April.

Further, the unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent in February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Friday. That exceeded expectations for 2.4 percent, which would have been unchanged from the January reading. The jobs-to-applicant ratio was 1.26, shy of forecasts for 1.27, which again would have been unchanged. The participation rate was 62.8 percent, beating forecasts for 62.7 percent and up from 62.6 percent in the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 151 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, China, Malaysia and Taiwan are higher by between 0.3 and 0.6 percent each. South Korea is relatively flat. Markets in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia are all closed for Good Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Thursday, following the strong upward move seen late in Wednesday’s session. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow and the S&P 500 reached new record closing highs.

The major averages eventually ended the session narrowly mixed. While the Nasdaq edged down 20.06 points or 0.1 percent to 16,379.46, the Dow inched up 47.29 points or 0.1 percent to 39,807.37 and the S&P 500 crept up 5.86 points or 0.1 percent to 5,254.35.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved modestly higher on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index inched up by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index closed just above the unchanged line.

Crude oil futures rallied on Thursday, lifted by a likely drop in supply levels due to OPEC production cuts and continued attacks by Ukraine on Russian oil facilities. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May spiked $1.82 or 2.2 percent at $83.17 a barrel. WTI futures gained 3.15 percent for the week.

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