April 19, 2016 - 3:11 PM EDT
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Asian Markets Mostly Higher

CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Wednesday, extending gains from the previous session, with investor sentiment bolstered by higher commodity prices and weakness in the U.S. dollar. Signs of economic stabilization in China also stoked demand for riskier assets.

The Australian market is advancing, as higher commodity prices boosted resources stocks. Investors largely shrugged off mining giant BHP Billiton's weak production report for the third quarter as well as its revised iron ore production outlook for the full year.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 34.20 points or 0.66 percent to 5,223.00, off a high of 5,232.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 34.90 points or 0.66 percent to 5,289.60.

Among the big miners, Rio Tinto is gaining almost 4 percent and Fortescue Metals is higher by almost 7 percent on higher iron ore prices.

BHP Billiton reported a decline in production for the third quarter across all segments, including a 1 percent decline in iron ore output. The company also cut its fiscal 2016 guidance for iron ore production. However, the miner's shares are advancing almost 2 percent.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is up almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is higher by more than 1 percent after gold prices surged higher overnight.

In the oil space, Oil Search is rising almost 4 percent and Santos is higher by more than 4 percent following the rise in crude oil prices.

Woodside Petroleum reported an 11 percent decline in revenue for the quarter ended March, while its production volumes fell almost 5 percent. However, the company's shares are adding almost 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Westpac, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 0.04 percent to 0.4 percent.

Dexus Property Group's chief operating officer Craig Mitchell has stepped down to become chief executive officer of privately owned construction company Grocon. His move comes following Dexus' failed A$2.5 billion takeover bid for rival property group Investa. Shares of Dexus are higher by 1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see March results for the Westpac leading index, plus skilled vacancies.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar rose against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday, aided by rising copper, iron ore and oil prices. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7813, up from US$0.7796 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is higher, with the benchmark Nikkei index rising above the 17,000 mark for the first time in almost three weeks in intraday trade. Investor sentiment was bolstered by a weaker yen.

In late-morning trades, the Nikkei 225 Index is up 77.42 points or 0.46 percent to 16,951.86, off a high of 17,099.36 earlier.

Among the major exporters, Sony is rising more than 3 percent, Canon is up almost 1 percent and Sharp is unchanged. Market heavyweight Fast Retailing is losing more than 1 percent.

Automaker Toyota is edging down 0.02 percent and Honda is up 0.2 percent. In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is declining 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is adding almost 3 percent and refiner JX Holdings is rising more than 2 percent.

Asahi Group said Tuesday it has finalized a deal to buy four European units belonging to brewer SABMiller for $2.9 billion. Shares of the company are advancing more than 1 percent.

Among the other gainers, Mazda Motor is rising more than 2 percent and TDK Corp is higher by 2 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 754.985 billion yen in March, up 237.9 percent on year. The headline figure was shy of expectations for 819.1 billion yen, following the 242.2 billion yen surplus in February.

Exports were down 6.8 percent on year, beating forecasts for a fall of 7.1 percent following the 4.0 percent contraction in the previous month. Imports skidded an annual 14.9 percent, versus expectations for a decline of 16.5 percent after tumbling 14.2 percent a month earlier.

Japan will also see March numbers for supermarket and convenience store sales later in the day.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 109 yen-level on Wednesday, up slightly from Tuesday's close in Tokyo.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, South Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand are up with modest gains. Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan are all marginally lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday on mixed corporate earnings results. The gains due to strong performances by Goldman Sachs, UnitedHealth, and Johnson & Johnson were tempered by weakness following disappointing earnings news from IBM, Illumina and Netflix.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the session well off its worst levels of the day, but still closed down 19.69 points or 0.4 percent at 4,940.33. The Dow rose 49.44 points or 0.3 percent to 18,053.60, and the S&P 500 climbed 6.46 points or 0.3 percent to 2,100.80.

The major European markets moved notably higher on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index soared by 2.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index shot up by 1.3 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil prices rose Tuesday amid an ongoing strike by Kuwaiti energy workers that will interrupt supplies from the region as well as on a weaker U.S. dollar. Crude oil for May delivery jumped $1.30 or 3.3 percent to $41.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Source: Equities.com News (April 19, 2016 - 3:11 PM EDT)

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