Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Monday with investors treading somewhat cautiously in some of the markets in the region. Though most of the markets started off on a firm note on the back of an encouraging report on manufacturing activity in China, a few of them have retreated subsequently due to lack of support at higher levels.
After a firm start and a subsequent good spell in positive territory, the Australian market pared most of its gains with investors taking some profits at higher levels.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to 4,377.5, is currently trading at 4,343.2, up just 8 points or 0.2 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 8.1 points or 0.2 percent at 44,28.1, well off the day's high of 4,460.7.
Energy and mining stocks are among the top gainers. Financial, property trust and healthcare stocks, which edged higher earlier in the day, are currently trading off their highs. Consumer staples and industrial stocks are trading slightly weak.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton is up 2.5 percent, Rio Tinto is gaining 1.8 percent and Fortescue Metals is trading 2.2 percent up, while Newcrest Mining is up by around 1.2 percent.
Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search are up 1.3 to 1.5 percent, while Origin Energy and Caltex Australia are up 0.2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
In the banking space, ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are down marginally, while National Australia Bank and Westpac are up with modest gains. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are trading weak, losing 0.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Panaust is up nearly 4.5 percent. Perseus Mining, Iluka Resources and Onesteel are up 2 to 3 percent.
Alumina, Amcor, Atlas Iron, WorleyParsons, Goodman Group and Beach Energy are also trading notably higher.
However, Qantas Airways is trading lower by 3.2 percent. Myer Holdings is down with a loss of 2.5 percent and Leighton Holdings is down 2.2 percent. Sydney Airport, Orica and Brambles are also down with notable losses.
In economic news, the TD Securities-Melbourne Institute inflation gauge rose 0.5 percent in March, following an increase of 0.1 percent in February, according to a survey.
In the year to March, the inflation gauge rose 1.8 percent - the lowest annual inflation rate for two years and falling just shy of the Reserve Bank of Australia's two to three per cent inflation target band for the medium term.
According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, residential building approvals fell 7.8 percent to 10,771 units in February, as compared to a downwardly revised 11,688 units in January, seasonally adjusted. In the year to February, building approvals were down 15.2 per cent, the bureau said.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher and was quoting at US$1.0395 in early trades, up 0.3 percent from Friday's close of US$1.0363. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 1.0400 to the U.S. dollar.
The Japanese stock market surged higher with investors tracking some positive news from across the globe and indulging in some strong buying at several frontline counters. The yen's decline against the U.S. dollar too contributed to the market's strength.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 10,190.5, was up 80 points or 0.8 percent at 10,163.6 at the end of the morning session.
Banking, real estate, insurance, marine transport and rubber stocks were mostly up in positive territory with strong gains. Foods, railway and land transport stocks traded mixed.
Amada Co. and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha shares gained more than 4.5 percent. Ricoh, Unitika, T&D Holdings Inc., Mitsui OSK Lines, Nomura Holdings, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Credit Saison, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Komatsu and Dai-ichi Life Insurance were up 3 to 4 percent at the break.
Suzuki Motor, Honda Motor, Nissan Motor, Fuji Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Estate, Fanuc, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Yokohama Rubber, JFE Holdings, Canon Inc, Panasonic Corp and Sony Corp. were all trading higher by over 2 percent.
Among the losers in the Nikkei index, NGK Insulators is down more than 6 percent. Tobu Railway, All Nippon Airways, J Front Retailing, Tokyo Dome, Citizen Holdings, Oji Paper, Kansai Electric Power, Chubu Electric Power, Tokyo Electric Power and Nisshin Steel drifted lower by 1.5 to 3 percent.
The Bank of Japan's quarterly Tankan survey revealed on Monday that sentiment for its large manufacturers' index was unchanged in the first quarter of 2012, holding steady at a score of -4. That missed expectations for an increase to -1 after showing -4 in the fourth quarter of 2011 and +2 in the third quarter.
The outlook for the next quarter also fell shy of forecasts, coming with a score of -3 versus expectations for a 2 after showing -5 in the previous three months.
The all industry capex also disappointed and is now expected to remain flat for the fiscal year. That was well shy of forecasts for expectations of a 0.8 percent rise following the 1.4 percent showing in Q4.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 82 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 83.18 to the U.S. dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai and Indonesia are trading notably higher, while Singapore and South Korea are up marginally. Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and Taiwan are trading weak. Markets across the region ended on a mixed note on Friday.
On Wall Street, stocks turned in a somewhat lackluster performance on Friday amid uncertainty about the outlook for the markets following the fairly sharp jump in the first quarter and on a mixed batch of U.S. economic data.
The major averages ended the day mixed, with the Nasdaq posting a modest loss. While the Dow rose 66.2 points or 0.5 percent to 13,212 and the S&P 500 edged up 5.2 points or 0.4 percent to 1,408.5, the Nasdaq ended down 3.8 points or 0.1 percent at 3,091.6.
Major European markets moved higher on Friday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.5 percent, while the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index advanced by 1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil futures ended higher on Friday as the dollar weakened on developments in Europe and some encouraging consumer spending data from the U.S. Crude for May delivery ended up $0.24 or 0.2 percent at $103.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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