(RTTNews) – Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday amid concerns over trade wars, while the U.S. dollar fell following Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments that a weaker greenback would be good for U.S. trade. Meanwhile, higher commodity prices lifted resources stocks.
The Australian market is declining after two straight days of gains following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street, while the Australian dollar rose against the U.S. dollar. Higher commodity prices boosted mining and oil stocks, but these gains were more than offset by weakness in banking stocks.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 11.80 points or 0.19 percent to 6,042.90, off a low of 6,029.10. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 11.60 points or 0.19 percent to 6,157.20.
In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.
The major miners are rising, boosted by higher iron ore and base metal prices overnight. BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals are advancing almost 1 percent each, while Rio Tinto is adding 0.2 percent.
Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is gaining more than 2 percent and Evolution Mining is rising almost 2 percent after gold prices surged overnight to their highest level in a year.
Among oil stocks, Oil Search is rising 0.6 percent, Woodside Petroleum is advancing 0.5 percent and Santos is up 0.3 percent after crude oil prices extended three-year highs overnight.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar rose against the U.S. dollar on Thursday after the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments on a weaker greenback. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.8045, up from US$0.8017 on Wednesday.
The Japanese market is extending losses from the previous session, following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street and as a stronger yen weighed on shares of exporters.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 144.76 points or 0.60 percent to 23,796.02, off a low of 23,688.94 in early trades.
The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Panasonic and Sony are declining more than 1 percent each, while Canon is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.7 percent. SoftBank is lower by 0.6 percent.
In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining 0.4 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is losing 0.8 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is lower by almost 1 percent and Honda is losing more than 1 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is lower by 0.4 percent, while Japan Petroleum Exploration is advancing more than 1 percent.
Among the market’s best performers, Dentsu is rising more than 4 percent, Sumitomo Metal Mining is gaining 3 percent and Toho Zinc is higher by almost 3 percent.
On the flip side, Advantest is losing almost 3 percent, while Taiyo Yuden, Seiko Epson and Alps Electric are all declining more than 2 percent each.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 109 yen-range on Thursday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Indonesia are also lower, while South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and Malaysia are modestly higher.
On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after seeing early strength that partly reflected a positive reaction to the latest batch of quarterly corporate earnings news. Buying interest waned over the course of the morning, however, leading some traders to cash in on the recent strength in the markets.
The Dow rose 41.31 points or 0.2 percent to 26,252.12, while the Nasdaq slid 45.23 points or 0.6 percent to 7,415.06 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.59 points or 0.1 percent to 2,837.54.
The major European markets all moved to the downside on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 0.7 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both slumped by 1.1 percent.
Crude oil futures extended 3-year highs Wednesday, fueled by a weak U.S. dollar and another decline in U.S. oil inventories. March WTI oil climbed $1.14 or 1.8 percent to settle at $65.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since December 2014.
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