(RTTNews) – Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street after the release of minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy meeting.
The minutes of the Fed’s September meeting showed that many participants thought another increase in interest rates later this year is “likely to be warranted” if the medium-term outlook remained broadly unchanged. However, they also expressed concern about persistently weak inflation this year.
The Australian market is edging higher in choppy trade despite the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street. Weakness in mining stocks more than offset gains by banks and oil stocks.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 1.20 points or 0.02 percent to 5,773.30, off a high of 5,775.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 2.20 points or 0.04 percent to 5,843.00.
Mining stocks are weak after iron ore prices fell overnight. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are all declining more than 1 percent each.
Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is flat, while Newcrest Mining is losing almost 2 percent.
In the banking space, ANZ Banking is up 0.2 percent, Westpac is adding 0.6 percent and National Australia Bank is rising 0.5 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is lower by 0.6 percent.
Oil stocks are also mostly higher after crude oil prices rose for a third straight session overnight. Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.2 percent and Santos is advancing almost 2 percent each, while Oil Search is down 0.1 percent.
Hotels operator Mantra Group has urged its shareholders to support a A$1.18 billion takeover bid from French hotel operator Accor SA. Shares of Mantra Group are edging down 0.1 percent.
Toll-road operator Transurban said its revenue in the September quarter rose by 10.5 percent on a year earlier and added that it is evaluating the NSW government’s proposed sale of a 51 percent stake in Sydney Motorway Corporation. Transurban’s shares are adding 0.6 percent.
Woolworths said it has exited the home improvement business after it completed the sale of its shares in Hydrox Holdings – the joint venture it set up with U.S. firm Lowe’s to run Masters – to Home Investment Consortium Company. Woolworth’s shares are down almost 1 percent.
Whitehaven Coal reported a 14 percent increase in production for the September quarter, while coal sales rose 21 percent. The coal miner’s shares are down almost 3 percent.
Bellamy’s Australia has raised its outlook for full-year revenue growth excluding its recently acquired Camperdown cannery to a range of 15 percent to 20 percent, from the prior range of 5 percent to 10 percent. The infant formula maker’s shares are rising more than 6 percent.
In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total number of home loans in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent on month in August, coming in at 57,161. That beat forecasts for a gain of 0.5 percent following the downwardly revised 2.8 percent increase in July.
Australia will also provide August numbers for credit card purchases as well as October results for its inflation forecast today.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7795, up from US$0.7785 on Wednesday.
The Japanese market is extending gains from the previous session, as the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street and a weaker yen lifted investor sentiment.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 66.86 points or 0.32 percent to 20,948.13, off a high of 20,980.92 in early trades. Japanese shares had closed at their highest level in 21 years on Wednesday.
The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Canon is rising 0.3 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.2 percent, while Panasonic is down 0.2 percent and Sony is declining more than 1 percent.
Among automakers, Toyota is lower by 0.2 percent and Honda is unchanged. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is losing 0.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.4 percent.
Shares of Kobe Steel are adding almost 1 percent, halting a two-day losing streak.
Toshiba is speeding up efforts to increase flash memory production at its mainstay Yokkaichi factory in order to address a shortage of large-capacity digital storage for data centers. Shares of Toshiba are rising more than 4 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is losing almost 2 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is down 0.4 percent despite crude oil prices rising for a third straight session overnight.
Among the best performers, Chughai Pharmaceutical is rising more than 6 percent, Komatsu is higher by more than 4 percent and SoftBank is up more than 3 percent.
On the flip side, FamilyMart UNY is losing more than 5 percent, Shionogi & Co. is declining by almost 3 percent and Sompo Holdings is down more than 2 percent.
In economic news, the Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 3.0 percent on year in September, coming in at 516.810 trillion yen. That was shy of expectations for an increase of 3.2 percent, which would have been unchanged from the August reading.
Japan will also provide September figures for producer prices and August results for its tertiary industry index later today. In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 112 yen-range on Thursday.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are also higher. Shanghai and Malaysia are edging lower.
On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record closing highs on Wednesday after the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy meeting.
The Dow edged up 42.21 points or 0.2 percent to 22,872.89, the Nasdaq rose 16.30 points or 0.3 percent to 6,603.55 and the S&P 500 crept up 4.60 points or 0.2 percent to 2,555.24.
The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index crept up by 0.2, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line.
Crude oil prices advanced for the third straight day Wednesday after the Energy Information Administration said it expects U.S. crude oil production in 2018 to rise by more than previously expected. November WTI crude rose $0.38 or 0.8 percent to settle at $51.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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