WASHINGTON: Asian stock markets are extending a global rally on Monday, tracking the gains on Wall Street Friday amid renewed optimism over U.S. President Donald Trump’s corporate tax reform plans as well as higher crude oil prices. News about a smooth meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the weekend also lifted investor sentiment, though investors brushed aside news about a ballistic missile launch by North Korea on Sunday. The Australian market is rising for a fifth straight day, following the gains on Wall Street Friday amid optimism about corporate tax reform under U.S. Donald Trump. Investors also cheered upbeat local corporate earnings results. In the mining space, BHP Billiton is rising more than 2 percent, Rio Tinto is adding more than 3 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 4 percent after iron ore prices rose Friday. Oil stocks are also higher as crude oil prices advanced. Santos is gaining almost 2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is up 2 percent and Oil Search is rising more than 2 percent.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are adding more than 1 percent each. Newcrest Mining more than doubled its first-half profit and said it will pay its first interim dividend in four years. The big four banks are largely unchanged. ANZ Banking and Westpac Banking are up less than 0.1 percent each and National Australia Bank is higher by 0.3 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is down less than 0.1 percent. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s first-half cash earnings stayed flat at A$224.7 million amid pressure on its net interest margin and higher debt. The bank’s shares are losing almost 5 percent. Domino’s Pizza Enterprises has defended its record of franchisee profitability and staff payments following media reports that the company squeezed franchisees, while the franchisees have underpaid employees and committed visa fraud. The pizza maker’s shares are losing more than 4 percent. Meanwhile, JB Hi-Fi reported a 16 percent increase in first-half net profit on strong revenue growth. The consumer electronics retailer’s shares are gaining more than 6 percent. Amcor’s shares are higher by more than 4 percent after the global packaging company’s first-half net profit fell 6 percent, while underlying earnings rose.
Aurizon Holdings turned to a net profit in the first half, compared to a loss in the year-ago period that was impacted by writedowns and charges. The rail freight operator’s shares are rising more than 5 percent. In economic news, Australia will see December data for credit card purchases and balances today. In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar amid higher iron ore prices. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7680, up slightly from US$0.7640 on Friday. The Japanese market is advancing, following the positive cues from Wall Street Friday, a weaker yen and data showing that the Japanese economy expanded for the fourth straight quarter. Investors also cheered news about a smooth meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington over the weekend.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 106.38 points or 0.55 percent to 19,485.31, off a high of 19,519.44 in early trades. The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Panasonic and Toshiba are rising more than 1 percent each, while Canon is adding almost 1 percent. Sony is down 0.2 percent. Automakers Toyota and Honda are rising almost 1 percent each. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is higher by almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is rising almost 3 percent. In the oil space, Inpex is gaining more than 6 percent and JX Holdings is advancing almost 4 percent as crude oil prices rose Friday. Among the other major gainers, Mitsubishi Materials is rising almost 4 percent, while Taiheiyo Cement and Pacific Metals are adding more than 3 percent each. On the flip side, Citizen Watch is losing almost 6 percent, Amada Holdings is declining almost 5 percent and Haseko Corp. is down 2 percent. On the economic front, the Cabinet Office said that Japan’s gross domestic product gained 0.2 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2016. That missed expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the previous three months.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 113 yen-range on Monday. Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are all in positive territory. The markets in Thailand are closed on Monday for Makha Bucha Day. On Wall Street, stocks once again ended the session at new record closing highs on Friday, reflecting optimism about corporate tax reform under President Donald Trump. News that Trump spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and agreed to honor the “One China” policy also eased concerns about tensions between the two countries. The Dow advanced 96.97 points or 0.5 percent to 20,269.37, the Nasdaq rose 18.95 points or 0.3 percent to 5,734.13 and the S&P 500 climbed 8.23 points or 0.4 percent to 2,316.10. The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index closed just above the unchanged line, the German DAX Index edged up by 0.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.4 percent. Crude oil futures rose sharply Friday, ending a topsy-turvy week on the rebound amid hopes the global supply glut is dwindling. March WTI crude rose 86 cents, or 1.6 percent, to settle at $53.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.