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Asian Markets Trade Weak

Asian stock markets are trading weak on Friday with investors treading cautiously ahead of the release of some key economic data from China. An announcement by the U.S. banking giant JP Morgan about a $2 billion trading loss it incurred due to a failed hedging strategy is also weighing on sentiment to a notable extent.

After edging up in early trades, the Australian stock market drifted lower with investors treading cautiously and trimming down positions.

Healthcare, consumer staples and energy stocks are finding some support, while shares from financial, mining and industrial sectors are trading mixed. Property trusts and telecommunications stocks are trading weak.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,274.4 after an initial upmove, is currently trading at 4,281, down 14.6 points or 0.4 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 14.8 points or 0.3 percent at 4,339, slightly off the day's low of 4,333.1.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are trading lower by 0.5 to 1 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading flat. Bank of Queensland is down 1.5 percent, while Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up marginally.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton is down marginally, Rio Tinto is losing about 0.3 percent and Fortescue Metals is down 0.6 percent. Newcrest Mining is in positive territory with a gain of over 1.5 percent.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Origin Energy are up 0.3 to 0.6 percent, while Oil Search is trading slightly weak.

Perseus Mining is gaining nearly 6 percent. Spark Infrastructure Group is up 3.5 percent. Campbell Brothers, Seek, Seven West Media, Treasury Wine Estates and AMP are trading higher by 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Onesteel, Alumina, Regis Resources, Leighton Holdings and Atlas Iron are trading lower by 2 to 3 percent.

Boral, Lynas Corporation, QR National and CFS Retail Property Trust are also trading notably lower.

The Japanese stock market opened higher with investors indulging in some brisk buying in early trades amid easing worries about the eurozone. However, the market pared some of its early gains and was up just marginally in positive territory when the morning session ended.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 9,050.6 in early trades, was up 2.8 points at 9,012.5 at the end of the morning session.

Nikon Corp. shares gained more than 8 percent, thanks to an upbeat earnings report from the company.

Daikin Industries and Konica Minolta Holdings moved up by over 6.5 percent before paring some gains. Ebara Corp, Isuzu Motors, Olympus Corp, Advantest and Tosoh Corp surged 3.7 to 4.5 percent.

Hitachi Ltd shares gained 2.5 percent after the company forecast a 16 percent increase in operating profit for the financial year.

Bridgestone Corp, Nissan Motor, Fujifilm Holdings Corp, Eisai Co., Sojitz Corp, Yokohama Rubber, Trend Micro, Tokyo Electron, Japan Steel Works, Hino Motors, JX Holdings and Ricoh also posted notable gains.

Among the prominent losers, Nitto Boseki, Terumo Corp, Furukawa Electric, Tokyo Electric Power, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Sharp Corp, Sumco Corp, Pioneer Corp and Sumitomo Chemical drifted down by 2 to 5.5 percent.

Nippon Sheet Glass, Sony Corp, Ajinomoto Co Inc., Softbank, Mitsubishi Paper Mills, JFE Holdings, Chubu Electric Power and SMFG also posted notable losses.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 79 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 79.84 to the dollar.

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

On Wall Street, stocks failed to sustain early gains and mostly ended flat after a choppy ride. While bargain hunting pushed up stock prices higher early on in the session, concerns about the political uncertainty in Greece dragged the markets down as the day progressed.

The major averages eventually ended the session mixed. While the Nasdaq edged down by 1.1 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,933.6, the Dow crept up 20 points or 0.2 percent to 12,855 and the S&P 500 rose 3.4 points or 0.3 percent to 1,358.

Major European markets surged higher on Thursday. The German DAX index ended up 0.7 percent, while the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil futures settled modestly higher on Thursday, snapping a six-day losing streak, on a weak dollar and some mixed economic data from the U.S., including a flat initial jobs claims for last week. Crude for June delivery gained $0.27 or 0.3 percent to close at $97.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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