Asian Stock Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trading

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Monday amid cautious trades following the positive cues from Wall Street on Friday and on news that a U.S. government shutdown will continue for a third day Monday after the Senate failed to reach a deal on Sunday night.

The Australian market is edging lower as the U.S. government shutdown continued into a second day. Investors are also digesting local corporate earnings results. Gains by miners were more than offset by weakness in banking and oil stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 3.20 points or 0.05 percent to 6,002.60, off a low of 5,998.30 in early trades. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 1.00 point or 0.02 percent to 6,118.30. The Australian market closed modestly lower on Friday.

The major miners are mostly higher following a jump in iron ore prices. Rio Tinto is up 0.2 percent and BHP Billiton is adding 0.4 percent, while Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.4 percent.

Gold miners are also higher. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are advancing almost 1 percent each.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 0.3 percent to 1.2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is declining 0.4 percent, Woodside Petroleum is down 0.5 percent and Santos is losing 1 percent after crude oil prices fell from four-year highs on Friday.

Australian Foundation Investment Co. reported a more than 15 percent increase in its half-year profit and maintained its interim dividend. The company's shares are adding 0.6 percent.

Domain Holdings' chief executive Antony Catalano has stepped down just four months after the real estate classifieds business listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, saying that his job prevented him from being with his family. Shares of Domain are falling almost 12 percent.

McGrath's chief executive Cameron Judson will leave the real estate company and its founder John McGrath will become interim executive chairman after the company scaled back its expansion plans. The company's shares are losing more than 7 percent.

Shares of pared early gains and are losing more than 1 percent despite the online electronics retailer saying it enjoyed record-breaking Christmas sales.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar slipped against the U.S. dollar on Monday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7994, up from US$0.8014 on Friday.

The Japanese market is declining despite the positive cues from Wall Street on Friday and a weaker yen, as investors kept an eye on political developments in Washington.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 48.62 points or 0.20 percent to 23,759.44, off a low of 23,697.81 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is adding almost 1 percent, Sony is rising 0.6 percent and Canon is up 0.2 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 2 percent. SoftBank Group is advancing 0.5 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is lower by 0.2 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ is edging down 0.1 percent. Among automakers, Toyota and Honda are declining almost 1 percent each.

In the oil space, Inpex is up 0.1 percent, while Japan Petroleum Exploration is losing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices fell on Friday.

Among the market's best performers, Pioneer Corp. is rising more than 3 percent, while Maruha Nichiro and MS&AD Insurance are gaining 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is losing more than 3 percent, while JXTG Holdings and Nippon Electric Glass are declining more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see December figures for condominium and convenience store sales today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia are also lower, while Shanghai, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia are all modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Friday as optimism about the outlook for the economy and corporate earnings overshadowed concerns about a potential government shutdown at midnight.

The Dow rose 53.91 points or 0.2 percent to 26,071.72, the Nasdaq advanced 40.33 points or 0.6 percent to 7,336.38 and the S&P 500 climbed 12.27 points or 0.4 percent to 2,810.30.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Friday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.6 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices continued to ease from recent four-year highs on Friday. February WTI oil declined $0.58 or 0.9 percent to settle at $63.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.