(RTTNews) – Asian stock markets, with the exception of Australia, are in negative territory on Friday amid renewed worries about North Korea after South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted North Korea’s foreign minister as saying that his country may conduct a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean.
Investors also digested news that credit ratings agency S&P Global Ratings has downgraded the sovereign credit ratings of China and Hong Kong.
The Australian market is advancing after three straight days of losses, shrugging off the weak cues overnight from Wall Street. Banks and telecom stocks are among the leading gainers.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 9.80 points or 0.17 percent to 5,665.20, off a high of 5,688.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 6.60 points or 0.12 percent to 5,723.30.
In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent.
Among the telecom stocks, Telstra is rising almost 1 percent and TPG is adding 0.4 percent.
The major miners are also mostly higher despite iron ore prices falling below $65 a ton overnight. BHP Billiton is up 0.3 percent and Rio Tinto is adding more than 1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is declining 0.5 percent.
Rio Tinto announced an additional share buyback of $2.5 billion, including an off-market buyback worth $560 million for its Australia-listed shares.
Gold miners are mixed after gold prices fell overnight to their lowest since August. Evolution Mining is rising more than 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is losing almost 2 percent each.
Oil stocks are mostly lower after crude oil prices edged lower overnight. Santos is down 0.4 percent and Oil Search is lower by 0.2 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.5 percent.
Seven West Media and regional broadcaster Prime Media Group have ended talks over combining their assets into a single media company as they were unable to come to an agreement. Shares of Prime Media shares are losing almost 7 percent.
Fairfax Media said its year-to-date revenues are down 4 to 5 percent on last year, announcing it just ahead of the release of its plan to spin off profitable real estate listings business Domain. Shares of Fairfax Media are declining 0.5 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7932, down from US$0.7959 on Thursday.
The Japanese market drifted into negative territory after opening higher, as a stronger yen weighed on exporters’ shares. Renewed concerns about North Korea also weighed on investor sentiment.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 60.66 points or 0.30 percent to 20,286.82, after rising to a high of 20,417.07 in early trades.
The major exporters are lower despite a weaker yen. Sony is losing 0.4 percent, Panasonic is down almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is declining more than 1 percent, while Canon is unchanged.
Among automakers, Toyota is adding 0.3 percent and Honda is up 0.2 percent each. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding 0.4 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is up 0.2 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is declining 0.4 percent, while Japan Petroleum Exploration is rising 0.6 percent.
Among the best performers, Hitachi Construction Machinery is adding almost 2 percent, while East Japan Railway and Meiji Holdings are rising more than 1 percent each.
On the flip side, JFE Holdings is losing more than 4 percent, while Mitsui Mining & Smelting is down almost 4 percent and Kobe Steel is lower by more than 3 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 112 yen-range on Friday.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Shanghai, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are also in negative territory.
On Wall Street, stocks saw modest weakness on Thursday as traders continued to digest the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement on Wednesday, when the Fed left interest rates unchanged but signaled another rate hike is likely this year.
The Dow dipped 53.36 points or 0.2 percent to 22,359.23, the Nasdaq slid 33.35 points or 0.5 percent to 6,422.69 and the S&P 500 fell 7.64 points or 0.3 percent to 2,500.60.
The major European markets moved mostly higher on Thursday. The French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.5 percent and the German DAX Index climbed by 0.3 percent, although the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent.
Crude oil futures inched lower Thursday, trimming recent gains after the Federal Reserve suggested a rate hike is imminent. WTI crude for November delivery slipped $0.14 or 0.3 percent to settle at $50.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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