Asian Markets Mostly Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Thursday following the overnight rally on Wall Street amid optimism that coronavirus infections around the world are nearing a peak and on expectations of more stimulus measures by governments.

Investors now look ahead to the release of the U.S. weekly jobless claims report later in the day, with the report expected to shed more light on the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy.

The Australian market is notably higher, led by banks and oil stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 88.50 points or 1.70 percent to 5,295.40, after rising to a high of 5,320.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 90.80 points or 1.73 percent to 5,349.60. Australian stocks closed lower on Wednesday in a volatile session.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are rising more than 2 percent each, while Westpac is advancing almost 2 percent and Commonwealth Bank is adding more than 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Oil Search and Santos are rising more than 2 percent each and Woodside Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 6 percent overnight.

In the mining space, Fortescue Metals is higher by more than 1 percent and Rio Tinto is adding 0.4 percent, while BHP is down 0.1 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is lower by more than 2 percent and Evolution Mining is declining almost 1 percent after safe-haven gold prices settled flat overnight.

CSL’s shares are higher by almost 2 percent after the company affirmed its full-year profit guidance, ahead of a coronavirus update to investors. However, the biotechnology giant noted that plasma collection from its centers in the U.S. presents a challenge due to movement restrictions.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6237, compared to $0.6132 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is declining after three straight days of gains and as worries about the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country weighed on stocks. On Wednesday, the number of daily coronavirus infections topped 400 for the first time in Japan.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 99.13 points or 0.51 percent to 19,254.11 after touching a high of 19,406.96 in early trades. Japanese shares rose for a third straight session on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is rising more than 2 percent, while Fast Retailing is down 0.2 percent.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 1 percent, Canon is lower by almost 1 percent and Panasonic is edging down 0.1 percent, while Sony is adding 0.4 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is down 0.4 percent, while Tokyo Electron is adding 0.5 percent. Among automakers, Honda and Toyota are declining more than 1 percent each.

Mitsubishi Motors said it will temporarily close three factories in Japan and lay off about 6,500 workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s shares are adding 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is higher by more than 2 percent and Inpex is advancing almost 2 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 6 percent overnight.

Nintendo has suspended domestic shipments on its popular Nintendo Switch video game consoles following production delays arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The company’s shares are down 0.5 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Casio Computer is higher by almost 5 percent, while Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Mitsui E&S Holdings, Fujikura, and Nippon Sheet Glass are rising more than 4 percent each.

On the flip side, NTT Docomo and Denka Co. are losing more than 4 percent each, while Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, Fujifilm Holdings and Tobu Railway are lower by almost 4 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will see March results for its consumer confidence index today.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore is rising more than 1 percent and South Korea is advancing almost 1 percent. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Malaysia are also higher.

Indonesia is losing more than 1 percent, while New Zealand and Taiwan are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks rallied on Wednesday amid optimism that some of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic are flattening the infection curve. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the number of new cases in the U.S. has decreased in recent days after reaching a peak last Friday. Further buying interest was generated in reaction to news Senator Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Dow soared 779.71 points or 3.4 percent to 23,433.57, the Nasdaq surged up 203.64 points or 2.6 percent to 8,090.90 and the S&P 500 spiked 90.57 points or 3.4 percent to 2,749.98.

The major European markets closed mixed on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index dipped by 0.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil prices rose sharply on Wednesday, rebounding from losses in previous session, ahead of the crucial meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the group’s allies on Thursday. WTI crude for May delivery jumped $1.46 or about 6.2 percent to $25.09 a barrel.

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