Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Friday after U.S. stocks edged higher overnight. However, gains are modest in most markets as investors turned cautious ahead of the release of the U.S. Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report for November later in the day.

Investors also digested a report by the Wall Street Journal indicating the U.S. and China are at odds over the size of Chinese agricultural purchases.

The Australian market is extending gains from the previous session.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 14.60 points or 0.22 percent to 6,697.60, after touching a high of 6,699.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is advancing 12.30 points or 0.18 percent to 6,803.40. Australian stocks closed notably higher on Thursday.

The big four banks are mixed. Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.4 percent and National Australia Bank is rising 0.2 percent, while ANZ Banking is declining 0.4 percent and Westpac is down 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are also mixed after gold prices edged higher overnight. Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is lower by 0.3 percent.

Northern Star Resources said it has completed its takeover of Echo Resources. The gold miner's shares are higher by more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Appen is losing almost 2 percent, WiseTech Global is lower by almost 1 percent and Afterpay Touch Group is declining 0.7 percent.

The major miners are mostly lower. Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.1 percent, while BHP is edging up 0.1 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly lower after crude oil prices ended flat overnight. Santos is declining more than 1 percent and Oil Search is declining 0.4 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent.

Health insurer NIB Holdings has formed a A$20 million joint venture with U.S.-based insurance giant Cigna to create a data science and services company to help people understand their health risks and cut down on costly hospitalizations. Shares of NIB are rising almost 2 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6832, down from $0.6840 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is also advancing, with major exporters higher despite a stronger yen.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 91.51 points or 0.39 percent to 23,391.60, after touching a high of 23,412.48 earlier. Japanese shares rose notably on Thursday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is rising 0.2 percent and Fast Retailing is edging up 0.1 percent.

The major exporters are higher even as the yen strengthened. Panasonic is advancing almost 1 percent, Canon is rising 0.6 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is adding 0.4 percent and Sony is edging up 0.1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is higher by almost 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent. Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is adding 0.6 percent, while Toyota Motor is down 0.2 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is declining 0.2 percent and Japan Petroleum is edging down 0.1 percent after crude oil prices ended flat overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Eisai Co. is higher by more than 5 percent, Kobe Steel is rising more than 3 percent and Taisei Corp. is higher by 3 percent.

On the flip side, Nippon Suisan Kaisha and Takeda Pharmaceutical are lower by more than 1 percent each.

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

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and Hong Kong are advancing almost 1 percent each, while New Zealand, Malaysia and Taiwan are modestly higher. Shanghai and Singapore are edging higher, while Indonesia is little changed.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday in choppy trading as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday. News that House Democrats are moving forward with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump also contributed to the choppy trading along with a Wall Street Journal report indicating the U.S. and China are at odds over the size of Chinese agricultural purchases.

The Dow inched up 28.01 points or 0.1 percent to 27,677.79, the Nasdaq crept up 4.03 points or 0.1 percent to 8,570.70 and the S&P 500 rose 4.67 points or 0.2 percent to 3,117.43.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 Index closed just above the unchanged line, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both fell by 0.7 percent.

Crude oil futures failed to hold early gains and settled flat on Thursday as traders awaited the outcome of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC meet in Vienna. WTI crude for January ended at $58.43 a barrel, unchanged from the previous close.

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