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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Friday, despite the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight, as traders react to a slew of economic data from the region. Slightly easing concerns about inflation and hopes that the US Fed will announce an interest-rate cut in the second quarter aided sentiment. Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday.

The US Commerce Department report showed consumer prices in the U.S. increased in line with estimates in January. The inflation readings are said to be favored by the Fed, and the data generated some optimism about the outlook for interest rates.

Adding to the gains in the previous session, the Australian stock market is modestly higher on Friday, following the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 is moving above the 7,700 level, with gains across most sectors led by mining and technology stocks.

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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 35.00 points or 0.46 percent to 7,733.70, after touching a high of 7,737.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 35.80 points or 0.45 percent to 7,995.30. Australian markets ended notably higher on Thursday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto and BHP Group are gaining almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals and Mineral Resources are edging down 0.1 to 0.3 percent each.

Oil stocks are mostly higher. Woodside Energy and Beach energy are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Santos is adding almost 1 percent. Origin Energy is edging down 0.3 percent.

Among tech stocks, WiseTech Global is losing almost 1 percent, while Zip is surging almost 8 percent, Afterpay owner Block is advancing more than 1 percent and Xero is adding more than 3 percent. Appen is flat.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank and Westpac are edging down 0.1 percent each, while ANZ Banking is edging up 0.1 percent. Commonwealth Bank is flat.

Gold miners are mostly higher. Gold Road Resources is gaining more than 1 percent, Newmont is surging more than 4 percent, Evolution Mining is edging up 0.5 percent, Northern Star Resources is advancing almost 1 percent and Resolute Mining is adding almost 4 percent.

In other news, shares in Life 360 are skyrocketing 30 percent after the mobile tracking app reported a sharply narrower full-year loss on strong user and sales growth.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Australia fell into contraction territory in February, the latest survey from Judo Bank revealed on Friday with a PMI score of 47.8. That’s down from 50.1 in January and it slips beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.651 on Friday.

Recouping the losses in the previous two sessions, the Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Friday, following the broadly positive cues from Wall Street overnight. The benchmark Nikkei 225 is moving well above the 39,800 level to fresh all-time highs, with gains across most sectors led by index heavyweights and technology stocks.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 39,883.86, up 727.67 points or 1.83 percent, after touching a high of 39,888.11 earlier. Japanese stocks closed slightly lower on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is gaining almost 2 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is adding more than 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is gaining more than 1 percent and Toyota is adding almost 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest and Screen Holdings are gaining more than 2 percent each, while Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 4 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mizuho Financial are gaining more than 1 percent each.

Among major exporters, Mitsubishi Electric is gaining more than 1 percent, Canon is edging up 0.3 percent, Sony is adding 1.5 percent and Panasonic is advancing almost 4 percent.

Among other major gainers, Japan Steel Works is gaining more than 5 percent, while Tokyu, Nikon, NEXON and Renesas Electronics are adding more than 4 percent each. DeNA and Mitsubishi Estate are advancing almost 4 percent, while Tokyo Tatemono, Idemitsu Kosan, Recruit Holdings, Mercari, Secom and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust are rising more than 3 percent each.

Conversely, there are no other major losers.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent in January, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said on Friday. That was in line with expectations and unchanged from the December reading. The jobs-to-applicant ratio was 1.27 – also matching forecasts and steady from the previous month.

Further, the manufacturing sector in Japan continued to contract in February, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed on Friday with a manufacturing PMI score of 47.2. That’s down from 48.0 in January and it moves further beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 150 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are lower by between 0.1 and 0.3 percent each, while Hong Kong and Taiwan are down 0.2 and 0.1 percent, respectively. South Korea is closed for Independence Day.

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Thursday but largely maintained a positive bias before ending the day mostly higher. The major averages all moved to the upside, with the Nasdaq and S&P 500 reaching new record closing highs.

The Nasdaq and S&P 500 reached new highs for the session in late-day trading before giving back some ground going into the close. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 144.18 points or 0.9 percent to 16,091.92, the S&P 500 climbed 26.51 points or 0.5 percent to 5,06.27 and the narrower Dow closed up 47.37 points or 0.1 percent at 38,996.39.

Meanwhile, the major European markets ended the day mixed. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.3 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures settled lower on Thursday as concerns about reduced fuel demand outweighing hopes for the likely extension of production cuts by OPEC. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for April fell $0.28 or 0.4 percent at $78.26 a barrel.

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