Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains

Asian stock markets, with the exception of Malaysia, are higher on Tuesday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street reflecting continued positive sentiment after the U.S. and China finally reached an agreement on a phase one trade deal last week. However, gains are modest in most markets.

The Australian market is edging higher following the positive cues from Wall Street.

Nevertheless, investors remained cautious amid worries about the troubled financial sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 7.00 points or 0.10 percent to 6,856.70, after rising to a high of 6871.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 8.80 points or 0.13 percent to 6,961.10. Australian stocks closed at a two-week high on Monday.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is advancing almost 1 percent, Rio Tinto is rising 0.6 percent and BHP is adding 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly higher after crude oil prices edged higher overnight. Santos is rising 0.7 percent and Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent, while Oil Search is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank is declining 0.3 percent, while ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are down 0.2 percent each.

Shares of Westpac are lower by almost 1 percent after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority ordered Westpac to set aside an extra A$500 million in capital as the agency prepares to investigate the bank's top executives amid a child exploitation and money laundering scandal.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices declined overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining almost 2 percent.

Gold miner Northern Star Resources said it has entered into an agreement with the Australian unit of Newmont Gold Corp. to acquire a 50 percent stake in Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines for $800 million. Shares of Northern Star Resources are in a trading halt.

AP Eagers has apologized after revealing that about 6,200 of its employees were underpaid a total of A$4.5 million over a seven-year period. The car dealership chain's shares are losing more than 1 percent.

On the economic front, minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's December 3 meeting revealed that members of the central bank's Monetary Policy Board said it would be necessary to keep interest rates extremely low for an extended period of time in order to reach inflation and employment goals.

At the meeting, the board decided to leave its benchmark lending rate unchanged at the record low 0.75 percent in order to determine the effectiveness of previous easing.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total number of home loans issued in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 2.0 percent on month in October, worth A$18.21 billion.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is almost unchanged against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6874, compared to $0.6873 on Monday.

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

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 83.89 points or 0.35 percent to 24,036.24, after touching a high of 24,091.12 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Monday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is adding 0.4 percent and Fast Retailing is advancing almost 1 percent.

The major exporters are modestly higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic is rising 0.5 percent and Canon is adding 0.2 percent. Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are edging up 0.1 percent each.

Nippon Steel and ArcelorMittal said they have completed their $7 billion takeover of Essar Steel India and will operate the Indian steelmaker through a joint venture. Shares of Nippon Steel are losing almost 1 percent.

Among auto stocks, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor are adding 0.5 percent each. In the oil sector, Inpex is gaining 3 percent and Japan Petroleum is advancing almost 2 percent after crude oil prices edged higher overnight.

In the tech space, Advantest is rising more than 1 percent, while Tokyo Electron is down 0.3 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Tosoh Corp. is gaining almost 5 percent and FamilyMart Co. is rising almost 3 percent. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and Konami Holdings are advancing more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Dentsu is losing more than 4 percent after the advertising agency said it will lay off about 1,400 employees in seven foreign markets and also lowered its outlook for full-year profit.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 109 yen-range on Tuesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks ended at new record closing highs on Monday reflecting continued positive sentiment after the U.S. and China finally reached an agreement on a phase one trade deal last week. However, the agreement does not completely end the U.S.-China trade war, as some tariffs will remain in place as negotiators begin phase two talks. A report from the National Association of Homebuilder showing a substantial improvement in homebuilder confidence added to the positive sentiment.

The Dow closed up 100.51 points or 0.4 percent at 28,235.89, the tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 79.35 points or 0.9 percent to 8,814.23, and the S&P 500 climbed 22.65 points or 0.7 percent to 3,191.45.

The major European markets all showed strong moves to the upside on Monday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index spiked by 2.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.2 percent and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.9 percent.

Crude oil prices moved modestly higher during trading on Monday, extending the notable upward move seen over the two previous sessions. WTI crude for January delivery edged up $0.14 to a three-month closing high of $60.21 a barrel.

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