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Asian Markets Trade Weak

Asian stock markets are mostly trading weak on Monday with investors treading cautiously amid a lack of prominent triggers. A somewhat mixed close on Wall Street last Friday and caution ahead of some key economic data due this week are also contributing to the subdued trend in the region.

In the Australian market, consumer discretionary, energy and mining stocks are trading weak, while stocks from financial, healthcare and industrial sectors are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 8.1 points or 0.2 percent at 4,358.4. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,436, down 8.4 points or 0.2 percent from its previous close.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac are up marginally, while National Australia Bank is down 0.3 percent from its previous closing price. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up 0.3 percent, while Bank of Queensland is trading lower by around 0.7 percent.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton is down 0.4 percent, Fortescue Metals is trading 0.5 percent down and Newcrest Mining is down with a loss of over 1 percent, while Rio Tinto is up marginally.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Caltex Australia are down 0.2 to 0.5 percent, while Santos is trading lower by 1.2 percent.

Lynas Corporation, Perseus Mining, Primary Healthcare, Qantas Airways and Brambles are trading lower by 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

Myer Holdings, Sims Metal Management, Stockland, Sonic Healthcare, Boart Longyear and WorleyParsons are also trading notably lower.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Property Office Fund, Spark Infrastructure Group, Transurban Group, QBE Insurance Group, UGL and Goodman Group are up in positive territory, gaining between 1 and 2.5 percent.

On the economic front, Australia's producer prices fell unexpectedly during the March quarter, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Monday.

The producer price index fell 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in the March quarter compared to expectations of a 0.5 percent increase. This marked the first decline since the December quarter of 2009. In the December quarter of 2011, the PPI rose 0.3 percent.

Annually, the index rose 1.4 percent, slower than forecast of a 2.2 percent rise. This followed a 2.9 percent annual increase in the December quarter.

After a firm start on the back of some hectic buying in several blue chip stocks following the International Monetary Fund pledging fresh capital to protect the global economy from the European debt crisis, the Japanese stock market slipped into negative territory due to lack of support at higher levels.

Pharmaceuticals, financial and transport stocks opened on a buoyant note, but gave up some gains subsequently. Shares from electric power, mining and gas sectors traded weak.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 9,643.3 in early trades, was down 27.9 points or 0.3 percent at 9,533.5 when the morning session ended.

Meidensha Corp. shares gained nearly 5 percent. Showa Shell KK, Toho Zinc, JGC Corp, Kyocera Corp, Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma, Chugai Pharmaceutical, IHI Corp, Sharp Corp and Sojitz Corp moved up by 2 to 3 percent.

Nippon Suisan, Oki Electric Industry, Astellas Pharma, Chiyoda Corp, Matsui Securities, Mitsubishi Paper Mills and Mitsubishi Motor also posted strong gains before retreating a bit.

JFE Holdings moved up by nearly 2 percent after the company announced plans to cut costs by around 120 billion yen for financial year 2012.

Mitsui Chemicals Inc. shares lost more than 5 percent following an explosion in the company's glue factory. Kansai Electric Power declined by over 4 percent and Kawasaki Kisen lost around 3.4 percent.

Isuzu Motors, Unitika, Chubu Electric Power, Olympus Corp, Tokyo Electric Power, Nippon Sheet Glass and Sumco Corp were down 1.5 to 2.2 percent.

Tokyo Gas, Shinsei Bank, Casio Computer, JX Holdings, Osaka Gas and Furukawa Electric also traded notably lower.

On the economic front, Japan is scheduled to release final numbers for February's leading and coincident indexes, highlighting a light day for Asia-Pacific economic activity. Little change is expected from the preliminary readings that showed the leading index with a score of 96.6 and the coincident with a reading of 93.7.

Japan also will see March figures for supermarket sales; they were up 0.3 percent on year in February.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 81 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 81.32 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea are down with modest losses, while Indonesia and New Zealand are up marginally. Markets across the region turned in a mixed performance on Friday.

On Wall Street, the major averages ended on opposite sides of the unchanged line on Friday. While upbeat earnings reports aided sentiment early on in the session, profit taking wiped off gains as the day progressed.

The Nasdaq ended down 7.1 points or 0.2 percent at 3,000.5, while the Dow rose 65.2 points or 0.5 percent to 13,029.3 and the S&P 500 edged up 1.6 points or 0.1 percent to 1,378.5.

Major European markets moved higher on Friday. The German DAX index jumped 1.2 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index both advanced by 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude oil futures surged higher on Friday with a weak dollar and some encouraging economic data from Europe contributing to its surge. Crude for May delivery gained $1.23 or 0.8 percent to close at $103.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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