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Market Update

Sydney Leads Gains in Asia

Asian markets closed with modest gains Thursday as investors eyed the European Central Bank meeting later today, with better-than-expected Australian jobs data providing additional boost to Sydney-listed shares.

Australia’s S&P/ASX All Ordinaries rose 0.8% after data showed the country’s jobless rate declined unexpectedly to 5.1%.

Among other regional markets, the Shanghai Composite finished up 0.7% and the Hang Seng also picked up steam in the final hours of trading, to end 0.3% higher.

The Sensex rose 0.2% but the Nikkei ended a choppy session flat.

The European Central Bank was due to hold its much-anticipated policy meeting later in the global trading day, with expectations mounting the central bank would announce a new bond-purchase program but without adding to the overall money supply.

President Mario Draghi was reported to be in favour of “unlimited, sterilized” bond purchases, which meant the central bank would use money already circulating in the financial system to purchase bonds of Spain, Italy and other debt-stressed countries, and would not print fresh money for the same.

The euro climbed 0.2% to $1.2618 after jumping over 1% to $1.2625 on Wednesday.

Among other asset classes, crude oil futures for October delivery traded up 0.8% at $96.51 per barrel while Brent crude climbed 0.3% to $114.31 a barrel.

Stocks on the move

Exporters in Tokyo traded mixed. Sharp Corp. tumbled over 4% following a ratings downgrade from Moody's.

Among other losers, Toshiba Corp. declined 3.7% and Sony Corp. lost 0.4%.

On the other side, chipmakers rose -- Advantest Corp. gained 1.8% while Sumco Corp. rose 1.9%.

Financials also supported but resources stocks countered these gains. Steel player Kobe Steel tumbled 5% while JFE Holdings shed 2.1%, while Japan Petroleum finished flat.

Resources in Hong Kong, however, scored slim gains.  Angang Steel and Jiangxi Copper inched up 0.9% each while China Shenhua Energy rose 1.5%.

Financials reversed early losses -- index heavyweight HSBC Holdings advanced 1.6% while ICBC added 1%. China Construction Bank was up 0.6%.

Europe-tied firms scored higher amid hopes the ECB meeting today could alleviate problems in the debt-mired euro-zone and lift demand for exports.

Fashion clothing exporter Esprit Holdings jumped 2.7% while ports operator Cosco Pacific gained 2.8%. Consumer products retailer Li & Fung was up 1.6%.

On the flip side, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings tanked 6.8% after reports said the company’s controlling shareholder Huachen Automotive Group intends to raise $116 million by selling its stake in the company.

Casino shares were also on the downside, posting sharp losses. Wynn Macau slumped 4.7% while Sands China retreated 3.1% and Galaxy Entertainment tumbled 5.3%.

In Mumbai, stocks shed initial wariness after European markets trended higher.

Technology shares paced the gains -- Wipro topped the chart, bouncing 4.4% higher. Infosys added 3.6% while TCS added 1.1%.

Jindal Steel, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank and Gail India were among other gainers, adding 1.5% to 2%.

In Sydney, gains in miners helped pushed the resource-heavy index higher.

Rare earths miner Lynas Corp. surged nearly 42% after the miner bagged a temporary operating license for its refinery in Malaysia.

Among other miners, Perseus Mining soared over 5% and so did Alumina Ltd. Diversified miner BHP Billiton added 0.9% while close rival Rio Tinto rose 1.7%, but Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 4.8%.

In corporate news, Qantas Airways announced an alliance with Emirates Airlines. Shares of the Australian airline jumped 6.7%.