Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Friday despite the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and crude oil prices rising above the $50 a barrel mark. Investors are cautious as they focus on a raft of regional economic data, including Japanese consumer prices and Chinese manufacturing data.

The National Bureau of Statistics said that the manufacturing sector in China continued to expand in March, and at an accelerated pace, with a manufacturing PMI score of 51.8. That beat forecasts for 51.7 and was up from 51.6 in February.

The Australian market is declining after three straight days of gains and despite the positive lead overnight from Wall Street. Investors are also cautious ahead of the release of China manufacturing data later in the day.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 10.30 points or 0.17 percent to 5,885.90, off a low of 5,883.90. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 9.00 points or 0.15 percent to 5,922.80.

In the mining sector, Rio Tinto is down 0.1 percent and BHP Billiton is losing 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is adding 0.7 percent.

Gold miners are also weak as gold prices fell overnight. Newcrest Mining is lower by 0.5 percent and Evolution Mining is down 0.7 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.9 percent.

The ACCC has rejected a request by four Australian banks that they be allowed to collectively bargain with Apple to allow iPhone users to make mobile payments from their own digital wallets, rather than use Apple Pay.

Oil stocks are mostly lower despite crude oil prices rising overnight. Woodside Petroleum is losing 0.4 percent, while Oil Search and Santos are declining 0.3 percent each.

Quintis has named deputy chairman Julius Matthys as its interim CEO, replacing Frank Wilson who quit earlier this week to partner an unnamed overseas bidder to take over the company. The sandalwood grower’s shares are losing more than 4 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will release private sector credit numbers for February today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is almost unchanged against the U.S. dollar on Friday. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7650, compared to US$0.7657 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is rising following the positive lead from Wall Street and a weaker yen. Investors also digested a raft of Japanese economic data, including core consumer prices that rose in February.

In late-morning trades, the Nikkei 225 Index is adding 95.96 points or 0.50 percent to 19,159.18, off a high of 19,186.17 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing almost 1 percent and Panasonic is rising 0.6 percent, while Canon is down 0.1 percent.

Shares of Toshiba are rising more than 4 percent. The company plans to retain defense-related semiconductor operations even after its memory chip business is sold, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Meanwhile, the Nikkei also reported that U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and chipmaker Bradcomm have offered Toshiba about 2 trillion yen, or $17.9 billion for its chip unit.

Automaker Toyota and Honda are rising 0.4 percent each. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is advancing almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is adding 0.4 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is lower by 0.3 percent and JX Holdings is down 0.2 percent.

Among the other major gainers, Fujikura is rising almost 6 percent, Tokyo Gas is gaining more than 4 percent and Yamaha Corp. is rising more than 3 percent. On the flip side, Sumitomo Osaka Cement and Sumco Corp. are losing more than 2 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said that industrial output in Japan jumped 2.0 percent on month in February. That topped expectations for an increase of 1.2 percent following the 0.4 percent decline in January.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that consumer prices in Japan were up 0.3 percent on year in February. That topped expectations for 0.2 percent but was down from 0.4 percent in January.

The unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 2.8 percent in February. That was below forecasts for 3.0 percent, which would have been unchanged from the previous month.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the 112 yen-range on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Singapore, New Zealand and Indonesia are modestly higher, while South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday after a report from the Commerce Department showed stronger than previously estimated economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. However, traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves amid continued uncertainty about the outlook for President Donald Trump’s policy agenda.

The Dow advanced 69.17 points or 0.3 percent to 20,728.49, the Nasdaq climbed 16.80 points or 0.3 percent to 5,914.34 and the S&P 500 rose 6.93 points or 0.3 percent to 2,368.06.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures jumped back above $50 a barrel Thursday, as Kuwait signaled support for the six-month extension of OPEC’s supply quota plan. WTI crude added $0.84 to close at $50.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTT Staff Writer

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