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Australia, Japan Stocks Flat as Asia – Pacific Markets Close for Lunar Holiday

Shares in Australia and Japan struggled for gains on Friday where trading volume was relatively low as many stock markets in the region are closed for the start of the Lunar New Year holiday.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 dropped 0.63% to 6,806.70, with the financials, energy and materials sub indices struggling for gains, among others.

The country’s so-called Big Four banks declined. Shares of ANZ see-sawed between gains and losses to trade down 0.28%, Commonwealth Bank shares fell 0.21%, Westpac declined by 0.67% and the National Australia Bank lost 0.48%.

The Australian state of Victoria is set to enter a five-day lockdown beginning at 11:59 p.m. local time until Feb. 17, during which all nonessential retail outlets will close while cafes and restaurants will only provide takeaway options. That comes after five new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus infection were detected in the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s total number of active cases to 19.

Japanese markets resumed trading after being closed Thursday for a public holiday. The Nikkei 225 declined 0.14% to 29,520.07 while the Topix index climbed 0.16% to 1,933.88.

Major indices in India advanced in afternoon trade, with the Sensex up 0.47% and the Nifty 50 adding 0.26%.

Friday’s session followed overnight moves on Wall Street where the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended near the flatline while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite eked out gains.

Asia Currencies & Oil

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded near flat against a basket of its peers. The dollar index traded at 90.444, a touch higher than its previous close at 90.417.

The Japanese yen changed hands at 104.82 per dollar, slightly weaker than its last close at 104.72, while the Australian dollar traded down 0.06% at $0.7746.

Oil prices fell in the overnight session where OPEC and the International Energy Agency warned about demand recovery being hindered by renewed coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Reuters reported OPEC saying that world oil demand in 2021 will rebound slower than previously expected while the IEA said global oil supply was still outstripping demand but Covid-19 vaccines should help demand recover.

Prices continued their downward slide Friday during Asian trading hours. Global benchmark Brent fell 0.67% to $60.73 a barrel while U.S. crude declined 0.72% to $57.82.

Read: Asian Markets Mostly Flat as Markets Closed for Holiday

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