Asian Markets Mostly Higher


Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday following the rally on Wall Street Friday after the release of mixed U.S. jobs data for the month of April. While the Labor Department's report showed weaker than expected job growth in the month of April, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in over seventeen years. Crude oil prices above $70 a barrel in Asian trading amid worries that the U.S. might reimpose sanctions on Iran.

The Australian market is advancing following the gains on Wall Street and as higher commodity prices lifted resources stocks.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 33.00 points or 0.54 percent to 6,095.90, off a high of 6,105.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is gaining 37.40 points or 0.61 percent to 6,192.80.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is rising almost 2 percent, Fortescue Metals is adding more than 1 percent and Rio Tinto is rising 0.6 percent, reflecting higher iron ore and copper prices.

Gold miners are also higher even as gold prices were flat Friday. Evolution Mining is adding 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is advancing more than 1 percent after the company said it expects its Cadia mine to return to full production before the end of June.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is higher by more than 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is rising 1 percent and Santos is adding almost 1 percent after crude oil prices rose to a three-and-a-half year high on Friday.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are up 0.5 percent each, while National Australia Bank is declining almost 1 percent.

Westpac reported a 5.8 percent increase in its first-half cash profit, with consumer and business banking driving the increase. The bank's shares are rising more than 2 percent.

Orica reported a first-half loss, reflecting a fall in earnings due to operational issues and writedowns. The explosives and fertilizer maker's shares are losing more than 6 percent.

AMP said it has appointed former CBA CEO David Murray as its new chairman even as it denied recommendations it face criminal charges over a fee for-no-service scandal. The company's shares are declining almost 1 percent.

In economic news, Australia will see April results for the Performance of Construction Index from AiG and the Business Conditions and Confidence reports from NAB today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is marginally higher against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7527, up from US$0.7525 on Friday.

The Japanese market slipped into negative territory after opening higher following the rally on Wall Street. A stronger yen weighed on shares of exporters, while banking stocks were also weak.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 108.78 points or 0.48 percent to 22,364.00, off a high of 22,513.48 in early trades.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Mitsubishi Electric is edging up less than 0.1 percent and Sony is rising more than 2 percent, while Panasonic is declining more than 1 percent and Canon is down 0.3 percent.

In the tech space, Alps Electric is down almost 1 percent and Kyocera is losing more than 1 percent, while Advantest is rising almost 3 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is adding 0.2 percent and Honda is declining almost 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is lower by 0.6 percent.

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

Among the market's best performers, Daiichi Sankyo is rising more than 4 percent, while IHI Corp. is gaining almost 4 percent. Sojitz Corp. as well as Yamaha are advancing more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Nippon Kayaku is losing almost 4 percent, while Fukuoka Financial and Mitsubishi Chemical are down more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, members of the Bank of Japan said that the Japanese economy is likely to remain on an upward trend, minutes from the bank's March 8-9 meeting revealed on Monday. However, annual inflation is also expected to remain on an upward trend as it approaches the target of 2 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 108 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan are also higher, while Singapore and Malaysia are lower. The South Korean market is closed on Monday in observance of Children's Day.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Friday, partly reflecting a positive reaction to the Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report. While the report showed weaker than expected job growth in the month of April, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in over seventeen years.

The Dow surged up 332.36 points or 1.4 percent to 24,262.51, the Nasdaq soared 121.47 points or 1.7 percent to 7,209.63 and the S&P 500 jumped 33.69 points or 1.3 percent to 2,663.42.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.9 percent and the German DAX Index jumped by 1 percent.

Crude oil futures jumped on Friday to their highest since November 2014, picking up 2.4 percent for the week. June WTI oil settled at $69.72 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $1.29 or 1.9 percent. In Asian trades, crude oil rose above the $70 a barrel mark.