February 21, 2016 - 12:50 PM EST
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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday despite the lackluster cues from Wall Street on Friday, after oil prices rose slightly in Asian trades. Meanwhile, news that

has replaced the head of its securities regulator lifted shares in
Hong Kong

The Australian market is up with modest gains, following the mixed cues from Wall Street and the fall in crude oil prices on Friday. Higher metal prices lifted mining stocks, while strong corporate earnings results also boosted investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 18.80 points or 0.38 percent to 4,971.60, off a high of 4,977.40. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 19.40 points or 0.39 percent to 5,027.70.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is advancing more than 1 percent, Rio Tinto is rising 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is gaining almost 5 percent.

Banks are also mostly higher. Westpac Banking is up 0.2 percent, National Australia Bank is adding 0.4 percent and Commonwealth Bank is higher by 0.5 percent, while ANZ Banking is down 0.4 percent.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is lower by 0.6 percent and Evolution Mining is losing almost 2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is adding 0.4 percent, while Santos is declining more than 2 percent and Woodside Petroleum is losing almost 2 percent.

BlueScope Steel reported a profit for the first half that more than doubled from last year and outlined further cost cuts for the sale of its

New Zealand
iron sands business. Shares of the steelmaker are adding almost 1 percent.

Shares of NIB Holdings are gaining more than 8 percent after the private health insurer reported a 5 percent increase in its first-half net profit on higher revenues and margins.

UGL Ltd. recorded a turnaround to profit in the first half and said it is on track to achieve its full-year revenue forecast. The engineering contractor's shares are rising almost 12 percent.

Printing group PMP Ltd. said its profit for the first half fell 59 percent and attributed the fall in profit to money owed by faltering electronics retailer Dick Smith. Shares of PMP are advancing 1 percent.

Brambles's shares are adding almost 8 percent after the logistics giant raised its full-year outlook after recording a 2 percent increase in its first-half profit.

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

dollar on Monday. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7150, up from US$0.7112 on Friday.

The Japanese market recovered after a weak start and is in positive territory after crude oil prices rose slightly in Asian trades. In addition, the yen turned weaker, lifting some exporters' stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 119.37 points or 0.75 percent to 16,086.54, after touching a low of 15,816.83 in early trades.

Exporters are mixed. Sony is declining 0.5 percent and Panasonic is losing more than 1 percent, while Canon is higher by 1 percent and Toshiba is gaining more than 2 percent. Automaker Toyota is losing 0.4 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining almost 2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is losing almost 3 percent and JX Holdings is down 0.6 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Tokyo Tatemono is rising more than 3 percent, West Japan Railway is adding almost 3 percent and Odakyu Electric Railway is higher by 2 percent.

In economic news, a preliminary report from Nikkei revealed that the manufacturing sector in

continued to expand in February, although at a much slower pace, with a PMI score of 50.2.

That missed forecasts for a reading of 52.0 and was down from 52.3 in January. It remains slightly above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

will also see January numbers for supermarket sales later in the day.

In the currency market, the

dollar traded in the upper 112 yen-level in late trades on Monday, up from the lower 112 yen-range in early trades.

Elsewhere in

is rising more than 1 percent, while
Hong Kong
are also in positive territory. Meanwhile,
South Korea
New Zealand
are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks close mixed on Friday as traders expressed some uncertainty about the outlook for the markets following the significant volatility seen over the past couple weeks. Traders also continued to keep a close eye on the price of crude oil, which pulled back further off Thursday's intraday highs.

The Nasdaq rose 16.89 points or 0.4 percent to 4,504.43, while the Dow slipped 21.44 points or 0.1 percent to 16,391.99 and the S&P 500 edged down just 0.05 points to 1,917.78.

The major European markets moved to the downside on Friday. While the German DAX Index slumped by 0.8 percent, the

FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both fell by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices tumbled Friday, continuing their topsy turvy moves around the $30 a barrel mark. WTI for March delivery tumbled $1.13 to $29.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid lingering concerns about a global supply glut.

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Source: Equities.com News (February 21, 2016 - 12:50 PM EST)

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