Asian Markets Mostly Higher After Wall Street Rally

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday following the gains on Wall Street Friday as bond yields declined from recent four-year highs and crude oil prices rose to two-week highs. In addition, the Federal Reserve issued its monetary policy report to Congress, with the central bank suggesting a gradual pace of interest rate hikes in 2018. The safe-haven yen weakened and gold prices eased as risk appetite improved.

The Australian market is rising for the fourth straight session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index reclaiming the 6,000 level. Banks and oil stocks are among the leading gainers.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 25.90 points or 0.43 percent to 6,025.70, off a high of 6,038.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 26.00 points or 0.43 percent to 6,131.20.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are higher in a range of 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher after crude oil prices rose more than 1 percent overnight. Oil Search is higher by 0.4 percent and Woodside Petroleum is rising more than 1 percent, while Santos is declining almost 1 percent.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton is down 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto is declining 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is adding 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is adding almost 1 percent, while Newcrest Mining is lower by 0.5 percent after the company said it has agreed to buy a 27.1 percent stake in Toronto-listed Lundin Gold for $250 million.

Ardent Leisure reported a narrower net loss for the period from July 1 to December 26, 2017 compared to the six months to December 2016, and also said it expects to trade profitably in the second half of the year. The theme parks operator's shares are rising almost 3 percent.

Bluescope Steel reported a 23 percent increase in first-half net profit and extended its A$150 million share buyback for the second time. The company's shares are gaining more than 4 percent.

Amaysim Australia's shares are losing more than 6 percent after the company reported a net loss for the first half of the year as results were weighed down by acquisitions and new product costs.

QBE Insurance Group reported a full-year loss of $1.25 billion and said it will sell its operations in Latin America to Zurich Insurance for $409 million. Insurance giant's shares are lower by more than 4 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7842, up from US$0.7824 on Friday.

The Japanese market is notably higher following the positive cues from Wall Street and as the safe-haven yen weakened.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is rising 245.60 points or 1.12 percent to 22,138.38, off a high of 22,226.53 in early trades.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Canon and Panasonic are higher by more than 1 percent each, Sony is advancing almost 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is up 0.5 percent. SoftBank is advancing more than 1 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is rising 0.5 percent and Honda is adding more than 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is higher by 0.6 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is adding more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is rising more than 2 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 1 percent.

Among the market's best performers, Casio Computer is rising almost 4 percent, Ricoh is gaining almost 3 percent and Chughai Pharmaceutical is higher by more than 2 percent.

On the flip side, Tokai Carbon is losing more than 4 percent, Sumitomo Metal Mining is lower by almost 2 percent and Nisshin Steel is down more than 1 percent.

In economic news, Japan will see final December numbers for its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 106 yen-range on Monday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks rallied on Friday reflecting a continued drop by treasury yields, with the ten-year yield pulling back further off the four-year closing high set on Wednesday. Light trading activity may have exaggerated the upward move, as some traders stayed on the sidelines amid a lack of major U.S. economic data.

The Dow jumped 347.51 points or 1.4 percent to 25,309.99, the Nasdaq soared 127.31 points or 1.8 percent to 7,337.39 and the S&P 500 shot up 43.34 points or 1.6 percent to 2,747.30.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both crept up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices continued to rise on Friday despite further signs of robust U.S. oil production. WTI April oil futures rose $0.78 or 1.2 percent to close at $63.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.