Asian stock markets are mostly higher Wednesday, reflecting optimism on China’s economy, while the U.S. dollar remained weak amid doubts over President Donald Trump’s ability to deliver tax reforms.
The Australian market is advancing, lifted by strong gains in financial stocks that more than offset weakness in materials and energy stocks.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is up 18.30 points or 0.32 percent to 5,705.70, off a high of 5,743.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 15.90 points or 0.28 percent to 5,754.00.
The major banks – Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking and Westpac – are all higher in a range of 2.6 percent to 3.0 percent.
The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority said that the four biggest banks will be required to raise their Tier 1 capital ratios from 9.5 percent to 10.5 percent by January 2020, implying that banks will have to raise extra cash to meet the new, strong capital requirements.
Insurance Australia Group said it will create an Australian division that will bring together its business, operations and satellite divisions, as part of a previously announced optimization program to reduce gross operational costs by a pre-tax A$250 million by the end of 2019. The insurer’s shares are adding 0.2 percent.
In the mining space, Rio Tinto is losing almost 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is down almost 1 percent.
BHP Billiton reported a 4 percent increase in iron ore production for the full year, touching the low end of its production guidance. However, its copper output slid 16 percent. The company will take a charge of $740 million against its full-year profit. The mining giant’s shares are losing more than 2 percent.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining is lower by almost 2 percent and Evolution Mining is declining more than 2 percent despite higher gold prices overnight.
Among oil stocks, Santos is declining more than 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is down 0.3 percent and Oil Search is lower by almost 3 percent despite an uptick in oil prices.
On the economic front, the latest survey from Westpac Bank revealed that a leading index for the Australian economy continued to show pessimism in June, and at a sharper rate. The index was down 0.14 percent after easing an upwardly revised 0.01 percent in May.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar held on to the territory above the $0.79 level. In early trades Wednesday, the local unit was trading at US$0.7931, up from US$0.7915 on Tuesday.
The Japanese market recovered after a weak start following the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street and is modestly higher. Nevertheless, a stronger yen weighed on exporters’ shares.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is up 13.12 points or 0.07 percent to 20,013.03, off a high of 20,017.98 earlier.
The major exporters are losing on a stronger yen. Panasonic is declining almost 2 percent, Sony is down 0.5 percent and Toshiba is lower by 0.3 percent, while Canon is edging up less than 0.1 percent.
Among automakers, Toyota is down almost 1 percent and Honda is losing 0.6 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 0.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining 0.3 percent.
In the oil space, Inpex is rising almost 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum Exploration is down 0.7 percent.
Shares of Idemistu Kosan are rising more than 1 percent after a court approved the company’s “nuclear option” to effectively sideline Idemistu Kosan’s founding family from a deal to consolidate operations with fellow Japanese oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu.
Among the other major gainers, Toho Co. is rising more than 7 percent, Showa Denko is gaining more than 5 percent and Tokai Carbon is up 4 percent.
On the flip side, Meidensha Corp. is losing 4 percent, NTN Corp. is down more than 3 percent and Yamaha Motor is declining more than 2 percent.
In economic news, Japan will release final June numbers for machine tool orders today. The Bank of Japan begins a two-day meeting today and will review its monetary policy on Thursday, with most economists expecting the central bank to keep its policy unchanged.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 112 yen-range on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Shanghai, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan are also higher. South Korea and Indonesia are modestly lower.
On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday in choppy trading as traders expressed uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets after the Dow and S&P 500 reached record highs.
Traders were also digesting the latest batch of earnings news, with Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, and UnitedHealth among the big-name companies releasing their quarterly results before the start of trading.
While the Dow fell 54.99 points or 0.3 percent to 21,574.73, the Nasdaq climbed 29.87 points or 0.5 percent to 6,344.31 and the S&P 500 edged up 1.47 points or 0.1 percent to 2,460.61.
The major European markets all moved to the downside on Tuesday. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.1 percent and the German DAX Index plunged by 1.3 percent.
Crude oil futures continued to rally Tuesday amid reports that Saudi Arabia will sharply cut oil production in the face of defiance from fellow OPEC members. August WTI oil settled at $46.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $0.38 or 0.8 percent.