Asian markets are mostly trading higher on Thursday, with investors picking up stocks, tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages posted smart gains overnight amid expectations of a good reporting season following impressive results from Alcoa. Bargain hunting after recent losses is also contributing to the gains in the region.
In the Australian market, energy, mining, industrial and healthcare stocks are trading mostly firm. Financial, consumer discretionary and property trusts stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is trading at 4,266, up 19.9 points or 0.5 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 19.8 points or 0.5 percent at 4,347.1.
PanAust shares are up 5.8 percent after the company reaffirmed its 2012 production targets on exceeding its expectations at its flagship copper mine in the three months to March.
Beach Energy and Boart Longyear are both trading higher by over 3 percent. Alumina is up nearly 3 percent. Paladin Energy, Downer EDI, Challenger, Monadelphous Group and Fairfax Media are up 2 to 2.6 percent.
Whitehaven Coal, Investa Office Fund, Primary Healthcare, Toll Holdings, James Hardie Industries, Computershare, Lynas Corporation, Seek, Oz Minerals and Sims Metal Management are also up with strong gains.
Ten Network Holdings shares are down more than 2.5 percent after the company reported a sharp plunge in its first half net profit that came in below market expectations amid tough advertising markets. The broadcaster said net profit for the six months to February 29, 2012, fell 70.1 percent to A$14.8 million, compared with the prior corresponding period.
Iluka Resources is down 1.5 percent after the company said its production and revenue fell in the first quarter of 2012. The company said changes to its mining operations, such as a shutdown for maintenance and a change of location, were responsible for lower production in the three months to the end of March.
On the economic front, Australia's employment rose more than expected in March, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Thursday.
Employment rose by 44,000 from a month earlier in March. This was larger than economists' expectations for an increase of 6,500.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.2 percent compared with expectations for an increase to 5.3 percent. The number of unemployed persons decreased by 3,200 or 0.5 percent month-on-month to 629,100. The labor force participation rate increased 0.2 percentage point from February to 65.4 percent.
After seven successive days of losses, the Japanese market opened higher, with investors indulging in some buying amid optimism about U.S. corporate earnings and on renewed hopes about a solution to the eurozone economic crisis.
However, the market pared most of its early gains with a section of investors turning cautious amid reports that North Korea is set to launch a rocket despite opposition by the international community.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 9,492 in early trades but declined to 9,450 subsequently, is currently trading at 9,472, up 13.3 points or 0.1 percent from its previous close.
Shares from mining, securities, rubber, gas and transport sections moved higher in opening trades but gave up some gains subsequently. Pharmaceuticals, paper, marine transport and real estate stocks are trading weak.
Shares of Hitachi Construction Machinery moved up nearly 3% after the company said its operating profits will see a significant surge in FY 2012.
Furukawa Electric Co. shares are up nearly 3.5 percent. Mitsui Chemicals, Fujikura, Teijin, Hino Motors, Fanuc, Kajima Corp and Panasonic Corp are trading higher by 1.7 to 2.5 percent.
Among the prominent losers in the Nikkei index, Kawasaki Kisen, Sumco Corp, Mitsui OSK Lines and Aozora Bank are down 3 to 3.5 percent.
Nippon Yusen KK, NGK Insulators, Nitto Boseki, Unitika and Advantest Corp are trading lower by 2 to 2.8 percent.
In economic news, Japan's corporate goods price index stood at 105.3 in March, up 0.6 percent on the year and the 18th straight monthly rise, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Bank of Japan.
The CGPI also rose 0.6 percent from the previous month, with the index supported by rising crude oil prices. The index jumped 7 percent for petroleum and coal products, and rose 3.2 percent for pulp and paper products.
Yen-based import prices climbed 6.9 percent on the year, up from February's 2.5 percent increase, due to a weaker yen. Export prices rose 0.1 percent, their first rise since the 1.2 percent rise in February 2010. For the fiscal year 2011, the CGPI climbed 1.7 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded around 81 yen in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 81.02 to the U.S. dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand and Singapore are up with notable gains. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Indonesia are trading modestly higher and Malaysia is up marginally, while South Korea and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Markets across the region ended mostly lower on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, stocks surged higher on Wednesday with investors reacting positively to upbeat results from aluminum giant Alcoa. Despite closing well off their best levels of the day, the major averages posted fairly strong gains.
The Dow ended up 89.5 points or 0.7 percent to 12,805.4, the Nasdaq rose 25.2 points or 0.8 percent to 3,016.5 and the S&P 500 surged 10.1 points or 0.7 percent to 1,368.7.
Major European markets also closed on a firm note on Wednesday. While the German DAX index advanced by 1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index gained 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil futures closed higher on Wednesday, notwithstanding a more-than-expected increase in U.S. oil stockpiles for the week ended April 6. A weak dollar and a rebound in U.S. and global equity markets contributed to oil's upmove. Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, gained $1.68 or 1.7 percent to close at $102.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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