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Asian Markets Trade Mixed

Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Friday, tracking the overnight positive lead from Wall Street against rising oil prices. Some of the markets are trading higher, but the upside was capped by concerns about higher crude oil prices that could hurt global economic growth.

The Japanese market is trading flat amid choppy trading. The market opened lower due to concerns about a rising yen. Investors also resorted to profit-taking following recent strong gains.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index opened lower at 9,594.85 and rose to 9,636.40, but is currently trading at 9,599.19, up 3.62 or 0.04 percent.

On Thursday, the Nikkei index rose 0.4 percent to its highest level since early August, as the yen's drop to its lowest against the dollar since July boosted export-related shares. The broader Topix index ended half a percent higher.

Among exporters, Canon is down 0.42 percent, Sony is gaining 0.95 percent, Sharp is adding 0.18 percent and Fujitsu is advancing 0.23 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ is advancing 1.47 percent, Mizuho Financial is gaining 1.52 percent and Resona Holdings is adding 1.28 percent.

Automaker Toyota is down 0.15 percent, Honda is up 0.66 percent, Suzuki is losing 0.66 percent and Mazda is gaining 1.46 percent. In the energy space, Inpex Corp. is gaining 3.6 percent.

J Front Retailing is adding 1.79 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that the department store chain is planning to buy mall operator Parco Co. for 30 billion yen.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was trading in the lower 80 yen-level in Tokyo. In late morning trades, the dollar was quoting in a range of 80.08-80.10 yen, down 0.03 yen from Thursday's close of 80.11-80.13 yen.

The Australian market is trading marginally higher, tracking the mixed cues from Wall Street and Europe. Concerns about the risk of rising oil prices weighed on investor sentiment.

Banks and consumer discretionary stocks are trading higher, while energy stocks are trading in negative territory. Mining stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 10 points or 0.23 percent to 4296.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index is up 11 points or 0.25 percent to 4,378.50.

On Thursday, the Australian market closed slightly lower as companies reported mixed earnings and uncertainty about the stability of the Australian political scene undermined appetite for risk. The S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent, while the broader All Ordinaries index edged down 0.1 percent.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is currently adding 0.41 percent and Rio Tinto is advancing 0.53 percent. However, Iluka Resources is losing 1.54 percent. The company said on Thursday that it expects to post lower zircon and rutile production in 2012.

Newcrest Mining is down 3.93 percent after the company said problems at its Lihir mine would negatively impact production for the March quarter. However, the company maintained its full-year guidance.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Bank is up 0.27 percent, Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.36 percent, National Australia Bank is gaining 1.12 percent and Westpac is up 0.48 percent. Investment bank Macquarie Group is gaining 0.82 percent.

Insurance Australia Group is rising 5.73 percent. The insurer said Thursday that it is on track to meet its full-year forecast.

Casino group Echo Entertainment Group, which was spun off from Tabcorp in June 2011, reported a first-half net profit of A$70.2 million. The company's shares are gaining 5 percent.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum is down 0.97 percent, Oil Search is losing 1.41 percent and Origin Energy is down 0.28 percent.

Utility company AGL Energy reported a 51 percent fall in profit for the first half of the year to A$117 million. The company's stock is down 3.28 percent.

Among other Asian markets, Shanghai, Hang Seng, Seoul and Taiwan are currently trading marginally higher, while New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are trading in negative territory.

On Wall Street, stocks moved higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday with upbeat jobs data overshadowing some disappointing earnings news. The major averages recovered from early weakness, but the Dow was unable to cross the 13,000 level.

The Dow rose 46.02 points or 0.4 percent to 12,984.69, the Nasdaq jumped 23.81 points or 0.8 percent to 2,956.98 and the S&P 500 climbed 5.80 points or 0.4 percent to 1,363.46.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index closed nearly flat and the German DAX Index fell by 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude oil futures closed at a near ten-month high Thursday, mostly on supply concerns and a weak dollar, notwithstanding a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. oil inventories.

Light sweet crude for April delivery rose $1.55 or 1.5 percent to close at $107.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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