Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades

Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Thursday, following the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight, as traders remain cautiously optimistic because of an improving outlook for interest rates. Though the US Fed is still widely expected to raise rates by another quarter point next week, traders are hopeful it is nearing the end of its interest rate hikes. Asian Markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

The CME FedWatch tool currently shows a 99.8% probability for a rate hike of 25 basis points in the review due on July 26. A 14% probability is however seen for another rate hike in September.

The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Thursday, extending the gains in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,300 level, following the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight, with gains across most sectors, led by financial and mining stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 10.50 points or 0.14 percent to 7,334.20, after touching a high of 7,383.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 12.40 points or 0.16 percent to 7,550.60. Australian stocks ended notably higher on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent and Mineral Resources is surging almost 7 percent after again amended its joint venture with its Chinese partner, battery chemicals giant Albemarle.

Oil stocks are mostly higher. Origin Energy, Beach energy and Woodside Energy are edging up 0.5 percent each, while Santos is edging down 0.3 percent.

In the tech space, Afterpay owner Block is losing almost 1 percent, while WiseTech Global is adding more than 1 percent and Xero is edging up 0.2 percent. Appen is flat. Zip is soaring more than 11 percent after reporting higher revenues and total transaction volume for the June quarter.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank is gaining almost 1 percent and ANZ Banking is edging up 0.4 percent, while Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are adding more than 1 percent each.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Gold Road Resources is adding 1.5 percent and Resolute Mining is edging up 0.5 percent. Northern Star Resources is losing more than 4 percent.

In other news, shares in Flight Centre are gaining more than 4 percent after the travel operator upgraded profit guidance for the full year.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.683 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is significantly lower on Thursday, giving up the gains in the previous two sessions, with the Nikkei 225 falling below the 32,600 level, despite the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight, with losses across most sectors, led by technology stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 32,521.88, down 374.15 points or 1.14 percent, after hitting a low of 32,504.76 earlier. Japanese stocks closed significantly higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing almost 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is edging down 0.5 percent. Among automakers, Toyota and Honda are edging down 0.1 to 0.2 percent each.

In the tech space, Screen Holdings is losing more than 2 percent, Tokyo Electron is down more than 1 percent and Advantest is declining more than 3 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging down 0.1 percent, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is gaining almost 1 percent. Mizuho Financial is flat.

Among the major exporters, Canon is edging up 0.2 percent, while Sony is losing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.2 percent. Panasonic is flat.

Among other major losers, M3 is losing almost 3 percent.

Conversely, there are no other major gainers.

In economic news, Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 43.048 billion yen in June, the Ministry of Finance said on Thursday. That beat forecasts for a deficit of 46.7 billion following the downwardly revised 1,381.9 billion yen shortfall in May (originally -1,372.5 billion yen).

Exports rose 1.5 percent on year to 8.744 trillion yen, missed expectations for an increase of 2.2 percent following the 0.6 percent gain in the previous month.

Imports slumped an annual 12.9 percent to 8.701 trillion yen versus expectations for a decline of 11.3 percent following the upwardly revised 9.8 percent gain a month earlier (originally -9.9 percent).

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 139 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Singapore are lower by between 0.1 and 0.3 percent each, while Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan are higher by between 0.3 and 0.4 percent each.

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated after an early move to the upside but largely managed to maintain a positive bias throughout the trading day on Wednesday. The major averages once again climbed to their highest closing levels in over a year.

The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq inched up just 4.38 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 14,358.02. The Dow climbed 109.28 points or 0.3 percent to 35,061.21 and the S&P 500 rose 10.74 points or 0.2 percent to 4,565.72.

The major European markets also mostly moved to the upside on the day. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index surged by 1.8 percent and the French CAC 40 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, although the German DAX Index bucked the uptrend and edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures pared early gains and settled lower on Wednesday after data showed a smaller-than-expected drop in U.S. crude inventories last week, while a stronger dollar weighed as well. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for August fell $0.40 or 0.5 percent at $75.35 a barrel.

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