Asian stock markets are trading mostly higher on Thursday, despite the lack of cues overnight from Wall Street, after the Beige Book revealed that the U.S. economy strengthened from late May to early July, with the pace of growth described as moderate to robust, boosting the prospects of a faster global economic rebound. Asian markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday.

However, the upside is capped as traders remained cautious amid mounting fears over the surge in the fresh wave of COVID-19 infections in several markets in the region and across the world. It is also feared that more countries will likely impose stricter restrictions and lockdown, which will hamper economic activity.

The Australian stock market is slightly lower in choppy trading on Thursday, giving up some of the gains of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 above the 7,300 level, following the lack of cues overnight from Wall Street, with weakness in financial and energy stocks. Traders are also concerned amid the spike in COVID-19 cases of the highly contagious delta variant in New South Wales and now in Victoria.

NSW health authorities have confirmed 65 new local coronavirus cases, though a drop from yesterday’s 97 cases, with Sydney’s lockdown continuing until the end of the month. Meanwhile, 11 new cases were also reported in Victoria, with Melbourne expected to go into a fresh lockdown soon.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 12.20 points or 0.17 percent to 7,342.50, after hitting a low of 7,340.40 and a high of 7,365.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 9.90 points or 0.13 percent to 7,621.90. Australian markets ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and OZ Minerals are edging up 0.3 percent each, while Mineral Resources is up almost 1 percent. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are adding 0.5 percent each.

Oil stocks are mixed despite crude oil prices tumbling overnight. Oil Search and Santos are edging up 0.2 percent each, while Origin Energy is edging down 0.2 percent. Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy are losing more than 1 percent each.

Woodside Petroleum is seeking to sell stakes in its giant Scarborough gas field off the coast of Western Australia and an oil project in Senegal after delivering a 67 growth in quarterly sales revenues, helped by higher realised prices for natural gas and oil as global demand recovers.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac are all edging down 0.3 percent each.

In the tech space, WiseTech Global is gaining more than 1 percent, while Xero and Appen are losing almost 2 percent each. Afterpay and Zip are extending yesterday’s losses by between 3 and 5 percent each after news of expected competition from tech giants Apple and PayPal.

Gold miners are higher after gold prices climbed overnight. Evolution Mining is gaining almost 2 percent, while Resolute Mining is adding more than 2 percent. Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources are up almost 1 percent each, while Gold Road Resources is rising more than 1 percent.

In other news, the board of Sydney Airport has rejected the $22 billion takeover bid from a consortium of superannuation giants, saying the offer undervalues the critical asset and is opportunistic. The stock is trading flat.

Australian utility firm Spark Infrastructure also rejected two takeover bids from an investment consortium, saying the bids undervalue the company but remains open to negotiating with its suitors. The stock is gaining almost 7 percent.

In economic news, the unemployment rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent in June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday. That was beneath expectations for 5.0 percent and down from 5.1 percent in May. The Australian economy added 29.100 jobs last month – shy of forecasts for the addition of 30,000 jobs following the increase of 115,200 jobs in the previous month. The participation rate was 66.2 percent – missing forecasts for 66.3 percent but unchanged from the May reading.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.746 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is significantly lower on Thursday, extending the losses of the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 above the 28,300 level, following the lack of cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders remain cautious amid the continued acceleration in the new wave of coronavirus cases, particularly in Olympic city Tokyo.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,343.83, down 264.66 points or 0.93 percent, after hitting a low of 28,341.21 earlier. Japanese shares ended modestly lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing almost 1 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is down more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is edging down 0.3 percent and Honda is losing more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest and Screen Holdings are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Tokyo Electron is edging down 0.3 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial are losing almost 1 percent each, while Mizuho Financial is edging down 0.5 percent.

The major exporters are weak. Mitsubishi Electric and Sony are losing more than 1 percent each, while Canon and Panasonic are edging down 0.3 percent each.

Among the other major losers, Nikon is losing more than 5 percent, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is down almost 4 percent and Kyowa Kirin is declining more than 3 percent, while Hitachi, Inpex, IHI, Japan Exchange Group, Keisei Electric Railway, Chubu Electric Power, Mazda Motor and Yamaha Motor are all down almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, there are no major gainers.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 109 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is climbing 1.3 percent, while Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia and China are higher by between 0.3 and 0.7 percent each. New Zealand and Singapore are declining 0.3 and 0.5 percent, respectively.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday following the pullback seen in the previous session. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Eventually, the major averages ended the day little changed. While the Nasdaq edged down 32.70 points or 0.2 percent to 14,644.95, the Dow inched up 44.44 points or 0.1 percent to 34,933.23 and the S&P 500 crept up 5.09 points or 0.1 percent to 4,374.30.

Meanwhile, European stocks showed a modest move to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.5 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both closed just below the unchanged line.

Crude oil futures settled lower on Wednesday, weighed down by data showing a drop in gasoline demand. Data showing a drop in China’s first-half crude imports also weighed on oil prices. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for August tumbled $2.12 or 2.8 percent at $73.13 a barrel.

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