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 January 26, 2016 - 12:21 PM EST
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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday, tracking the overnight gains on Wall Street as positive economic data, strong corporate earnings and a surge in the price of crude oil lifted investor sentiment. Bucking the trend, the Chinese and Australian markets are in negative territory.

The Australian market opened lower, despite the positive cues from Wall Street and European markets as well as the rebound in crude oil prices. The market was closed on Tuesday for the Australia Day holiday, while other Asian markets tumbled after Chinese shares succumbed to another later afternoon sell-off.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index is declining 25.10 points or 0.50 percent to 4,981.50, off a low of 4,964.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 23.20 points or 0.46 percent to 5,033.90.

Banks are weak. ANZ Banking, Westpac Banking, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 0.3 percent to 2 percent.

National Australia Bank Chairman Ken Henry said that the demerger and partial IPO of the Clydesdale Bank unit should boost the return on their investment.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is losing almost 4 percent, Woodside Petroleum is declining more than 1 percent and Santos is lower by almost 2 percent despite higher crude oil prices.

Oil Search reported a 10 percent decline in revenue for the quarter ended December from the preceding quarter, even as its production increased.

The major miners are mixed. BHP Billiton is adding 0.4 percent, while Rio Tinto is losing 0.5 percent and Fortescue Metals is lower by almost 4 percent.

Rio Tinto has agreed to sell its Mount Pleasant thermal coalmine site in NSW's Hunter Valley to MACH Energy Australia for $224 million plus royalties.

Meanwhile, gold miner Newcrest Mining is rising more than 3 percent and Evolution Mining is adding almost 2 percent after gold prices rose to a 2-month high overnight on the precious metal's safe haven appeal.

Evolution Mining raised its production outlook for the full year after reporting a 17 percent increase in production for the quarter ended December.

Australian data management firm Recall Holdings said it acquired Swiss document storage and management company Secur Archiv, noting that the acquisition will strengthen its European footprint. However, shares of Recall Holdings are losing more than 2 percent.

Domino's Pizza Enterprises said it has completed its acquisition of 89 Pizza Sprint stores in

for 35 million euros. The company's shares are edging down 0.05 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that consumer prices in

climbed 0.4 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2015. That topped forecasts for an increase of 0.3 percent following the 0.5 percent gain in the third quarter.

The latest survey from Westpac Bank and the Melbourne Institute showed that the Australian economy slowed in December, as its leading economic index fell 0.3 percent to continue suggesting below-trend growth. That follows the upwardly revised 0.2 percent decline in November.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the

dollar on Wednesday. In late-morning trades, the local unit was trading at $0.7013, down from Monday's close of $0.7017.

The Japanese market is notably higher, tracking the positive lead overnight from Wall Street and the rebound in crude oil prices. Investors are keenly awaiting the outcome of the Bank of Japan's monetary policy meeting later this week.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 371.87 points or 2.23 percent to 17,080.77, off a high of 17,242.27 earlier.

Exporters are mostly higher. Sony and Toshiba are rising more than 3 percent each, Canon is higher by 0.8 percent and Sharp is rising more than 2 percent. Meanwhile, Panasonic is edging down less than 0.1 percent and Casio Computer is declining more than 1 percent.

Sony said it has agreed to buy

-based Altair Semiconductor for $212 million. Altair owns modem chip technology and related software for Long Term Evolution or LTE, a 4G cellular standard for mobile devices.

Market heavyweight Fast Retailing is higher by more than 2 percent and SoftBank is rising more than 7 percent. Softbank's

subsidiary Sprint Corp. reported a loss for the third quarter that narrowed from last year and also raised its earnings outlook.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is advancing more than 4 percent.

Suzuki Motor is gaining more than 9 percent and Toyota is rising more than 3 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that Toyota and Suzuki have started talks on a tie-up to capitalize on demand for compact cars in

and other emerging markets.

Oil stock Inpex is lower by almost 5 percent and JX Holdings is up more than 3 percent following the rebound in crude oil prices.

Among the major gainers, Toho Zinc is rising more than 7 percent and Teijin is gaining almost 6 percent.

In economic news,

will see January results for its small business confidence survey later in the day.

In the currency market, the

dollar traded in the lower 118 yen-level on Wednesday, up from Tuesday's close in the upper 117 yen-range.

Elsewhere in

Hong Kong
is advancing more than 1 percent and
South Korea
is up almost 1 percent.
New Zealand
are also in positive territory.
is down 1 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks closed notably higher on Tuesday, partly due to a significant rebound in the price of crude oil. Buying interest was also generated in reaction to the release of quarterly results from several big-name companies as earnings season picks up steam.

The Dow jumped 282.01 points or 1.8 percent to 16,167.23, the Nasdaq advanced 49.18 points or 1.1 percent to 4,567.67 and the S&P 500 surged up 26.55 points or 1.4 percent to 1,903.63.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the

FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.6 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices surged higher Tuesday amid signs that OPEC will cooperate on curbing production. WTI oil for March delivery jumped $1.11 or 3.7 percent to close at $31.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Source: News (January 26, 2016 - 12:21 PM EST)

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