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Asian Markets Mostly Higher With Modest Gains




Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday with modest gains following the overnight rebound on Wall Street. Nevertheless, investors remained cautious as they kept an eye on developments related to the coronavirus outbreak in China. According to Chinese health officials, the coronavirus outbreak has killed 132 people and infected 5,974 people.


Investors are also looking ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy decision due later in the day. The central bank is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged.


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


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 24.90 points or 0.36 percent to 7,019.40, after touching a high of 7,032.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 26.70 points or 0.38 percent to 7,125.10. Australian shares closed notably lower on Tuesday.


Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is rising 0.7 percent, BHP is adding 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals is up 0.2 percent.


In the technology sector, Appen and Xero are higher by more than 1 percent each, while Wisetech Global is rising 0.8 percent after tech giant Apple's first-quarter results beat estimates.


Oil stocks are rebounding after crude oil prices ended a five-session losing streak and closed higher overnight. Santos is advancing 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is adding almost 1 percent and Oil Search is unchanged.


The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank - are higher in a range of 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent.


Bucking the trend, gold miners are weak after gold prices edged lower overnight. Evolution Mining is lower by almost 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is losing more than 1 percent.


Shares of Treasury Wine Estates are tumbling more than 22 percent after the winemaker lowered its outlook for fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021, citing the underperformance of its U.S. business segment.


On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that consumer prices in Australia were up 0.7 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2019. That exceeded expectations for a gain of 0.6 percent and was up from 0.5 percent in the three months prior.


In the currency market, the Australian dollar was quoted at $0.6762 on Wednesday, up from $0.6759 on Tuesday.


The Japanese market is rising following the positive cues from Wall Street.


The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 72.18 points or 0.31 percent to 23,287.89, after rising to a high of 23,311.66 earlier.


Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp. is rising more than 2 percent and Fast Retailing is edging up 0.1 percent.


Among tech stocks, Advantest is declining more than 2 percent, while Tokyo Electron is adding 0.5 percent.


Shares of Apple suppliers are lower despite the tech giant reporting better-than-expected first quarter results. Alps Alpine is losing almost 2 percent, while Murata Manufacturing and Taiyo Yuden are declining more than 1 percent each. Sharp is down 0.5 percent.


The major exporters are mixed despite a weaker yen. Mitsubishi Electric is higher by 0.6 percent, while Sony and Panasonic are edging up 0.1 percent each. Canon is down 0.3 percent.


Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is advancing more than 1 percent, while Toyota Motor is down 0.2 percent.


In the oil sector, Inpex is adding 0.7 percent, while Japan Petroleum is declining 0.3 percent.


Among the other major gainers, Nippon Yusen is rising more than 4 percent, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha is higher by more than 3 percent and Mitsui OSK Lines is advancing almost 3 percent.


On the flip side, Taisei Corp. is losing more than 2 percent.


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


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


Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Indonesia are also modestly higher.


Hong Kong, which resumed trading after the Lunar New Year holidays, is losing more than 2 percent and Malaysia is edging lower. The markets in China and Taiwan remain closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.


On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Tuesday on bargain hunting, as some traders looked to pick up stocks at relatively reduced levels after the sharp drop seen on Monday. Adding to the positive sentiment, the Conference Board released a report showing a notable improvement in U.S. consumer confidence in the month of January.


The Dow climbed 187.05 points or 0.7 percent to 28,722.85, the Nasdaq surged up 130.37 points or 1.4 percent to 9,269.68 and the S&P 500 jumped 32.61 points or 1 percent to 3,276.24.


The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. The French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.1 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both advanced by 0.9 percent.


Crude oil futures settled higher on Tuesday after five successive days of losses,, as prices rebounded a bit on reports OPEC and allies might reduce crude output due to a likely drop in energy demand following the coronavirus outbreak. WTI crude for March ended up $0.34 or about 0.6 percent at $53.48 a barrel.