CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are trading higher on Friday, tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages closed on a firm note overnight thanks to some upbeat economic data.
However, gains are just modest in most of the markets in the region, with investors looking ahead to some crucial speeches by top bankers including U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and the ECB President Mario Draghi at the Fed's annual Jackson Hole symposium later in the day.
In the Australian market, energy, industrial, consumer staples and information technology stocks are among the prominent gainers.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 16.1 points or 0.3 percent at 5,655.0. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,650.0, up 16.0 points or 0.3 percent from previous close.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are up 0.4 to 0.7 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up 0.3 percent and Bank of Queensland is little changed from previous closing price.
Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are modestly lower.
Iluka Resources is moving up 3.7 percent despite reporting a 66 percent decline in first-half net profit. ALS Limited shares are adding 4.7 percent.
Federation Centres is rising 3.5 percent. Santos is adding 3.4 percent after the company lifted dividend to shareholders despite posting a 25 percent fall in first-half profit.
Asciano is up more than 3 percent. Crown Resorts is gaining 2.5 percent after winning an extension of its Melbourne casino licence. Crown will make extra payments of up to A$910 million to the Victoria government in return for the amendments to its casiono licence and management agreement.
JB Hi-Fi, Challenger, Crown Resorts, Graincorp, Recall Holdings and Brambles are rising 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Media, Echo Entertainment Group, Arrium, Mirvac Group, Metcash, Qantas Airways and Fortescue Metals are declining 1.7 to 3.2 percent.
Sims Metal Management is down marginally after reporting a full-year loss of A$89 million.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher against the U.S. dollar. The local unit is currently trading at US$0.9315, up 0.5 percent from Thursday's close of US$0.9268.
The Japanese stock market opened higher, extending its long winning streak, tracking the overnight gains on Wall Street on the back of some upbeat economic data.
However, with investors looking to take some profits, the market retreated subsequently and was up just marginally at the end of the morning session.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which advanced to 15,628.8 in early trades, was up by about 3 points at 15,589.2 when the morning session ended.
Nippon Suisan Kaisha gained over 3 percent and Mitsui Mining & Smelting moved up 2.5 percent. Mitsubishi Motors, Shionogi & Co., Sumco Corp., Daikin Industries, Keisei Electric Railway, Mitsui Chemicals, MEIJI Holdings, Bridgestone Corp., Toho Co. and Asahi Group Holdings were up 1.5 to 2 percent at the break.
Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, Aozora Bank, TDK Corp., Konami Corp., T&D Holdings, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and Showa Shell Sekiyu KK also posted notable gains.
Meanwhile, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Japan Steel Works, Unitika, Shimizu Corp. and Pacific Metals lost 2 to 3 percent.
Obayashi Corp., NEC Corp., Sumitomo Metal Mining, Taisei Corp., Sharp Corp., Yokogawa Electric, Panasonic Corp. (PC) and Toho Zinc declined by 1 to 2 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 103 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 103.81 to the dollar, little changed from Thursday's close of 103.82 yen per dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea and Taiwan are notably higher. Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand are up with modest gains, while Shanghai, Malaysia and Indonesia are up slightly.
On Wall Street stocks ended higher on Thursday, on the back of some upbeat economic data, including a report from the National Association of Realtors showing an unexpected rise in existing home sales in July. The Labor Department's report showed a bigger than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended August 16.
The Dow climbed 60.4 points or 0.4 percent to 17,039.5, the Nasdaq edged up 5.6 points or 0.1 percent to 4,532.1 and the S&P 500 rose 5.96 points or 0.3 percent to 1,992.4, a new record closing high.
Major European markets too closed higher on Thursday. While the U.K.'sFTSE 100 index edged up by 0.3 percent, the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index gained 0.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended higher on Thursday, supported by a slew of positive economic data from the U.S. and on the bullish supply data released on Wednesday. Nevertheless, some sluggish manufacturing activity data from China checked oil's uptick, with concerns over a global slowdown.
Crude oil futures for October ended up $0.51 or 0.5 percent at $93.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after declining to a low of $92.50 a barrel intraday.