(RTTNews) – Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Tuesday with modest losses despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and higher crude oil prices. Investors are cautious as they look ahead to monetary policy decisions from central banks later in the week.
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decision is scheduled for Wednesday. The European Central Bank, The Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank are also slated to release their policy decisions this week.
The Australian market is modestly higher following the overnight gains on Wall Street ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting. Investors also digested weaker than expected local economic data.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 7.90 points or 0.13 percent to 6,006.20, off a high of 6,015.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 6.40 points or 0.11 percent to 6,088.30.
The major miners are higher, buoyed by stronger-than-expected Chinese exports and a rebound in Australia’s credit growth. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are adding more than 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is rising 0.4 percent.
Oil stocks are also gaining after crude oil prices rose overnight. Oil Search is rising more than 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is advancing 1 percent and Santos is adding 0.6 percent.
The big four banks are also mostly higher. National Australia Bank is rising 0.4 percent and Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.3 percent, while Westpac is down 0.2 percent.
ANZ Banking has agreed to sell its life and consumer credit insurance business OnePath Life to insurance giant Zurich Insurance for A$2.85 billion. The bank’s shares are adding almost 1 percent.
Meanwhile, gold miners are weak after gold prices drifted lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is losing almost 2 percent and Evolution Mining is down 0.6 percent.
CIMIC Group said it has secured three new major contracts for its companies, including the design and construction of Victoria’s West Gate Tunnel project. The construction giant’s shares are losing 1 percent.
Transurban said it will raise A$1.9 billion through an equity raising to part-fund the cost of the West Gate Tunnel project in Melbourne. The toll road operator’s shares are in a trading halt until completion of the industrial component of the capital raising on December 15.
Shares of shopping center giant Westfield Corp. are also in a trading halt until December 14, pending the announcement of a “significant” corporate transaction.
On the economic front, the latest survey from National Australia Bank revealed that consumer confidence in Australia slowed in November, with an index score of +6. That’s down from the upwardly revised +9 in October.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that residential property prices in Australia were down 0.2 percent on quarter in the third quarter of 2017. That missed forecasts for a gain of 0.5 percent following the 1.9 percent jump in the previous three months.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is rising against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7531, up from $0.7525 on Monday.
The Japanese market is edging higher in choppy trade following the positive lead overnight from Wall Street and a slightly weaker yen. Investors are cautious ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decision due on Wednesday.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 13.58 points or 0.06 percent to 22,952.31, off a high of 22,994.33 earlier.
The major exporters are higher on a slightly weaker yen. Panasonic is advancing almost 1 percent, Canon is higher by 0.6 percent, Sony is adding 0.4 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is rising 0.3 percent.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is adding more than 1 percent, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is advancing almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is down 0.2 percent, while Honda is rising almost 1 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is adding more than 2 percent and Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 1 percent.
Among the market’s best performers, Sumco Corp, Toho Zinc and Concordia Financial Group are rising more than 2 percent each.
On the flip side, Ajinomoto Co. and Sumitomo Osaka Cement are declining more than 2 percent each.
In economic news, the Bank of Japan said that producer prices in Japan were up 0.4 percent on month in November. That exceeded forecasts for a gain of 0.2 percent and was up from 0.3 percent in October.
Japan will also see October results for its tertiary industry index today.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 113 yen-range on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong and Malaysia are also edging higher. Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and Taiwan are all modestly lower.
On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Monday, though traders seemed somewhat reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement on Wednesday.
With the Fed widely expected to raise interest rates by a quarter point, traders are likely to keep a close eye on the accompanying statement as well as outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference for clues about the outlook for future rate hikes.
The Dow rose 56.87 points or 0.2 percent to 24,386.03, the Nasdaq advanced 35.00 points or 0.5 percent to 6,875.08 and the S&P 500 climbed 8.49 points or 0.3 percent to 2,659.99.
The major European markets turned a mixed performance on Monday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both fell by 0.2 percent.
Crude oil prices rose Monday, touching their highest in a week. WTI crude for January delivery climbed $0.63 or 1.1 percent to $57.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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