Asian markets are seeing a sell-off on Friday following a weak lead from Wall Street where stocks fell overnight on weak economic data. Mounting fears about the eurozone amid the financial crisis in Greece and Spain too are prompting investors to indulge in heavy selling.
In the Australian market, financial, energy, mining and industrial stocks are mostly down with sharp losses. Property trusts and consumer discretionary stocks are also down on selling pressure.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,060.5, is currently trading at 4,090, down 68.2 points or 1.6 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 71 points or 1.7 percent at 4,137.5, off the day's low of 4,110.1.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton is down 3 percent, Rio Tinto is losing over 4 percent and Fortescue Metals is down more than 7.5 percent, while Newcrest Mining is bucking the trend and trading higher by over 5 percent.
In the energy sector, Caltex Australia is down 4.3 percent, Woodside Petroleum is trading 2.4 percent down, Santos is down 3.2 percent, Oil Search is trading lower by 3 percent and Origin Energy is down with a loss of 1.4 percent.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac are down 1.6 to 2.5 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are also trading sharply lower. Paladin Energy shares are down by about 7 percent.
Aquarius Platinum, Atlas Iron, Whitehaven Coal, Lynas Corporation, Beach Energy, CSR, Onesteel, Leighton Holdings and Monadelphous Group are all trading lower by 4 to 7 percent.
Macquarie Group, Iluka Resources, QBE Insurance Group, Alumina and Sims Metal Management are also trading sharply lower.
PanAust expects production to rise in the coming years after an upgrade of its flagship copper mine. PanAust forecasts production of between 63,000 and 65,000 tonnes of copper in 2012, and expects production in 2013 to be between 65,000 and 70,000 tonnes. The stock is trading lower by about 1.5 percent.
Amid heavy selling across the board on growing worries about the financial situation in Europe and its likely impact on the global economy, the Japanese market opened on a weak note Friday. The yen's rise against the U.S. dollar as well as the euro too contributed to the weakness in the market.
With stocks going on a free fall, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index plunged to a four-month low, dipping below the 8,700 mark. The index, which dropped down to around 8,640, was down 207.3 points or 2.3 percent at 8,669.3 when the morning session ended.
Automobile, banking, machinery, steel, non-ferrous metals, electric machinery and chemicals stocks were mostly down with sharp losses. Several stocks from retail, foods and pharmaceuticals sections also drifted down sharply.
Mirroring widespread selling, only four stocks among the Nikkei 225 members managed to move up into positive territory. Among them, Shionogi & Co and Nippon Meat Packers gained 1.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. Chugai Pharmaceuticals was up with a modest gain, while Fast Retailing edged up marginally.
Hitachi Construction Machinery lost more than 9 percent. Sumco Corp, Advantest Corp, Okuma Corp, Nikon Corp and Kobe Steel were trading lower by 6 to 7 percent.
Mitsubishi Paper Mills, JFE Holdings, Nisshin Steel, Tokyo Electron, Mitsubishi Motors, Nomura Holdings, Toho Zinc, Shinsei Bank, Mizuho Financial Group, Japan Steel Works and Panasonic Corp drifted down by 4 to 6 percent.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mazda Motor, Showa Denko KK, Isuzu Motors, Honda Motor, Aozora Bank, Sharp Corp and Nippon Steel were also down sharply.
In economic news, the department store sales figures for April are due for release during the day. In March, nationwide sales were up 14.1 percent, while department sales from the Tokyo area spiked 26.7 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded at the lower 79 yen level in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 79.40 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are down sharply, with their benchmark indices losing between 1.6 percent and 2.5 percent. Shanghai, Malaysia and New Zealand are also trading weak. Markets across the region ended on a mixed note on Thursday.
On Wall Street, stocks posted notable losses on Thursday, as traders reacted negatively to a disappointing batch of U.S. economic data. Lingering concerns about the financial situation in Europe also continued to weigh on the markets.
The major averages ended at or near their lows for the session. The Dow declined by 156.1 points or 1.2 percent to 12,442.5, the Nasdaq plummeted 60.3 points or 2.1 percent to 2,813.7 and the S&P 500 dropped 19.9 points or 1.5 percent to 1,304.9. While the Dow and S&P hit their four-month closing lows, the Nasdaq posted its lowest closing level in over three months.
Major European markets too ended notably lower on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX all ended lower by 1.2 percent.
U.S. crude oil futures tumbled to a six-month low on Thursday, paring early gains on some soft economic data from the U.S. Continued worries over the Greece crisis and demand worries following a sharper than expected rise in U.S. oil stockpiles also impacted oil prices.
Crude for June delivery dropped $0.25 or 0.3 percent to close at $92.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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