Asian Markets Mixed, Crude Oil Prices Rise

Asian stock markets are mixed on Friday, with some of the markets paring early gains as risk appetite waned on the prospects of heightened geopolitical tensions. Crude oil prices rose almost 3 percent in Asian trading following reports that a top Iranian military commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

The Australian market is notably higher following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street amid continued optimism about a U.S.-China phase one trade deal and fresh stimulus for the Chinese economy. Tech stocks as well as the heavyweight mining and financial stocks are among the leading gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 81.90 points or 1.22 percent to 6,772.50, after touching a high of 6,788.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 81.40 points or 1.20 percent to 6,891.40. The Australian market edged higher on the first trading of the year on Thursday.

Among tech stocks, Appen and Wisetech Global are gaining more than 2 percent each, while Afterpay Touch is higher by more than 1 percent.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking - are higher in a range of 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent.

The major miners are also higher. BHP is rising 1 percent, Rio Tinto is adding almost 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is edging up 0.2 percent.

In the oil sector, Oil Search and Santos are rising 0.7 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.4 percent after crude oil prices edged higher overnight.

Bucking the trend, gold miners are weak despite gold prices rising overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar slipped from recent five-month highs and was quoted at $0.6968 on Friday, compared to $0.7001 on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia are also higher, while Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are lower. The markets in Japan are closed for public holidays.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs in the first trading session of 2020 on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump said the phase one U.S.-China trade deal is due to be signed during a White House ceremony on January 15. Recent reports have indicated Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's top trade negotiator, will be on hand to sign the phase one deal.

The Dow surged up 330.36 points or 1.2 percent to 28,868.80, the Nasdaq spiked 119.58 points or 1.3 percent to 9,092.19 and the S&P 500 jumped 27.07 points or 0.8 percent to 3,257.85.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index shot up by 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices rose on Thursday amid optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal and on hopes of increased demand for the commodity. WTI crude oil futures for February ended up $0.12, or about 0.2 percent, at $61.18 a barrel. In Asian trades Friday, crude oil prices are gaining $1.58 or 2.58 percent to $62.76.

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