Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Tuesday, extending gains from the previous session amid indications that coronavirus pandemic may be levelling off in New York and receding in European coronavirus hotspots such as Italy and Spain.

The Australian market has pared early gains and is now mixed. Investors now look ahead to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision on interest rates after its monetary policy meeting later today.

The RBA is widely expected to keep its benchmark lending rate steady at the record low of 0.25 percent. The central bank will also consider whether its bond-buying program requires any adjustments.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is down 1.30 points or 0.02 percent to 5,285.50, after rising to a high of 5,423.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 8.10 points or 0.15 percent to 5,331.70. Australian stocks closed sharply higher on Monday.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is higher by more than 5 percent and Evolution Mining is gaining more than 4 percent as safe-haven gold prices rose almost 2.9 percent overnight.

The big four banks – ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank – are higher in a range of 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent.

QBE Insurance has appointed AXA XL’s Jason Harris as its new chief executive after Richard Pryce decided to retire. Harris is chief executive of global property and casualty at AXA XL. Shares of QBE Insurance are higher by more than 3 percent.

In the mining space, Fortescue Metals is gaining more than 5 percent, Rio Tinto is rising more than 2 percnt and BHP is advancing more than 1 percent each.

In the oil sector, Santos is climbing more than 6 percent and Woodside Petroleum is advancing almost 2 percent even as crude oil prices fell about 8 percent overnight.

Oil Search has launched a A$1.16 billion capital raising program, saying that its capital preservation measures and equity raising are intended to ensure it can withstand a prolonged period of lower oil prices. The company’s shares are in a trading halt.

On the economic front, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed that the service sector in Australia continued to contract in March, and at a much faster rate, with a Performance of Service Index score of 38.7. That’s down from 47.0 in February and it moves further beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Australia also will see trade data figures for February today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6119, compared to $0.6050 on Monday.

The Japanese market is notably higher, extending gains from the previous session following the overnight rally on Wall Street as the reported death toll in some of the world’s coronavirus hotspots showed signs of easing.

Investor sentiment received a boost after reports indicated that the Japanese Cabinet is set to approve a coronavirus stimulus package totaling 108 trillion yen, or equal to 20 percent of Japan’s GDP.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 461.95 points or 2.49 percent to 19,038.25, after rising to a high of 19,162.52 earlier. Japanese shares rallied on Monday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 4 percent and Fast Retailing is advancing more than 2 percent.

The major exporters are higher despite a stronger yen. Canon is gaining more than 3 percent, while Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric are rising almost 3 percent each and Sony is advancing almost 2 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is climbing almost 11 percent and Tokyo Electron is gaining more than 5 percent. Among automakers, Honda is rising more than 3 percent and Toyota is adding 0.2 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is up 0.2 percent, while Japan Petroleum is lower by more than 4 percent after crude oil prices fell about 8 percent overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Daiwa House Industry is gaining almost 9 percent and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is higher by more than 7 percent. Recruit Holdings and Minebea Mitsumi are rising almost 7 percent each.

On the flip side, Fujifilm Holdings is losing almost 4 percent, Denka Co. is lower by more than 3 percent, and Nichirei Corp. is declining more than 2 percent.

In economic news, the average of household spending in Japan was down 0.3 percent on year in February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Tuesday – coming in at 271,735 yen. That beat expectations for a decline of 3.4 percent on year following the 3.9 percent annual drop in January.

Japan will also see February figures for labor cash earnings and its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 109 yen-range on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia and Taiwan are advancing more than 1 percent each, while South Korea and Hong Kong are also higher. Indonesia is modestly lower.

On Wall Street, stocks rallied on Monday as the reported death tolls in some of the world’s coronavirus hot spots showed signs of easing over the weekend. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in New York State fell to 594 on Sunday from 630 on Saturday, reflecting the first daily decrease. Reports of decreases in the number of new infections and deaths in European countries like Italy and Spain also generated positive sentiment.

The Dow soared 1,627.46 points or 7.7 percent to 22,679.99, the Nasdaq spiked 540.15 points or 7.3 percent to 7,913.24 and the S&P 500 surged up 175.03 points or 7 percent to 2,663.68.

The major European markets also showed strong moves to the upside on Monday. The German DAX Index skyrocketed by 5.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index soared by 4.6 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 3.1 percent.

Crude oil prices fell on Monday after moving up in the previous two sessions, following the meeting of leading oil producers getting postponed by three days. WTI crude for June ended down $2.26 or about 8 percent at $26.08 a barrel.

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