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Asian Markets In Cautious Mood

Amid worries about the global economy following recent weak data from the U.S. and Europe, the mood is quite cautious in stock markets in the Asia-Pacific region on Tuesday.

In the Australian market, energy, healthcare, consumer staples and information technology stocks are trading firm. Mining and property trusts stocks are also mostly up in positive territory, while financial and industrial stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which advanced to 4,431.3, is currently trading at 4,425.6, up 29 points or 0.7 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 28.4 points or 0.6 percent at 4,495.6.

Among key bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are down 0.3 to 0.6 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading 0.5 percent up. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is trading modestly lower, while Bank of Queensland is down with a loss of 2.5 percent.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton is up 0.6 percent, Fortescue Metals is up marginally and Newcrest Mining is gaining about 0.3 percent. Rio Tinto is trading in negative territory with a loss of 0.5 percent.

Energy stock Woodside Petroleum is up more than 4 percent following the company sealing an A$2 billion deal to sell part of its stake in the proposed Browse LNG Development to Japan Australia LNG. Woodside said it had accepted an offer for a long-term sales and purchase agreement for about 1.5 million tonnes of LNG a year from the Browse development subject to completion of the equity offer.

Among other stocks in the energy space, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy are up 0.5 to 1.2 percent, while Caltex Australia is up with a gain of 1.7 percent.

Seek, Lend Lease Group, Dexus Property Group, Treasury Wine Estates and Seven West Media are up 2 to 2.5 percent. Beach Energy, CSL, Duet Group, Onesteel, CSR, Graincorp and Metcash are also trading notably higher.

Shares of Aquarium Platinum are down nearly 6 percent. Whitehaven Coal is down nearly 2 percent, while Lynas Corporation, Panaust, Sydney Port and Alumina are trading lower by 1.2 to 1.6 percent.

Stockland Group shares are trading lower by about 0.6 percent. The company said it is on track to achieve its recent earnings guidance for the 2012 financial year. Under its current accounting methods, the company expects to achieve earnings per security of 30.5 cents for the full year.

On the economic front, Australia's manufacturing activity contracted sharply in April. The Australian Industry Group reported Tuesday that its Performance of Manufacturing Index declined 5.6 points to 43.9.

"The steep fall in manufacturing activity in April rings true and is of serious concern," said AIG Chief Executive Ennes Willox. "Manufacturers continue to be adversely affected by the strong dollar, comparatively high unit labor costs and rising energy prices."

AIG said the biggest declines were seen in the basic metals, textiles and wood products, and furniture sub-sectors. The employment index fell into contraction at 46.1 while production also contracted, with a reading of 43.9.

According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian capital city house prices declined 1.1 percent in the March quarter. In the year to March, the house price index fell 4.5 percent, the bureau said.

meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to cut cash rates by 25 basis points on Tuesday.

The Japanese stock market opened on a weak note after an extended weekend, with investors pressing sales amid worries about the global economic outlook following some weak data from the U.S. and Europe. The dollar's sharp decline against the yen too contributed to the weakness in the market.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to around 9,415, was down 85.2 points or 0.9 percent at 9,435.7 at the end of the morning session.

Steel, non-ferrous metals, automobile and bank stocks were mostly down in negative territory. Oil, pharmaceuticals and railway stocks traded mixed.

Among the big losers in the Nikkei index, Tokyo Electron plunged nearly 9 percent and Nippon Electric Glass lost around 8.5 percent.

Sharp Corp. shares tumbled by over 7 percent after the company forecast a wider-than-estimated loss.

TDK Corp, Kawasaki Kisen, Mitsumi Electric, Daiwa Securities, Mitsui OSK Lines, Mitsubishi Estate, Ricoh, Matsui Securities, Sony Corp and Nomura Holdings lost 3 to 5.5 percent.

JFE Holdings, Nippon Yusen KK, Casio Computer, Nippon Steel, Sumco Corp, Toho Zinc, Japan Steel Work and Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings also declined sharply.

Bank stocks traded weak after Standard & Poor's cut the credit ratings of 11 Spanish banks. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Aozora Bank, Bank of Yokohama and Shizuoka Bank lost 1 to 2.2 percent.

Among automobile stocks, Mazda Motor, Suzuki Motor, Nissan Motor, Honda Motor and Hino Motors drifted down by 1 to 3 percent, while Mitsubishi Motors and Isuzu Motors posted modest losses.

Kikkoman Corp, Chiyoda Corp, Chubu Electric Power, Nippon Light Metal and Advantest Corp gained 2.3 to 4.5 percent.

Fujitsu, Tobu Railway, Nisshinbo Holdings Inc, Yahoo Japan, J Front Retailing, Fujifilm Holdings and Pacific Metals advanced by 1 to 2 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar plunged below the 80 yen-range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 79.86 to the dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are closed for Labour Day Holiday. Indonesia and New Zealand are trading in positive territory. Markets across the region ended mostly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks ended modestly lower on Monday amid worries about the U.S. economy and concerns about the debt crisis in Europe. While the Dow ended down 15 points at 13,214, the Nasdaq dipped 23 points to 3,046 and the S&P 500 settled lower by about 5.5 points at 1,398.

Major European markets mostly ended notably lower on Monday amid worries about the eurozone economy.

U.S. crude oil futures snapped a four-day gain on Monday to settle a shade lower, as as the dollar gained strength and economic data from the Europe raised concerns about economic growth in the region. Crude for June delivery dropped $0.06 or 0.1 percent to close at $104.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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