Asian stock markets are mostly trading notably lower on Thursday with investors pressing sales, tracking weak cues from the U.S. and European markets where stocks tumbled overnight amid rising concerns about the financial situation in the eurozone. Some weak economic reports from the region are also weighing on sentiment to a significant extent.
Despite a few front line stocks trimming down some losses thanks to support at lower levels, the Australian market is trading notably lower.
Financial, mining and energy stocks are mostly down with sharp losses. Industrial stocks are also trading weak, while healthcare and consumer discretionary stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to around 4,036, is currently trading at 4,060, down 34.2 points or 0.8 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 26.1 points or 0.6 percent at 4,122.6, around 30 points off the day's low of 4,092.5.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac are trading lower by 0.8 to 1.3 percent, while National Australia Bank is down as much as 6 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are also trading notably lower.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest Mining are down 1.7 to 2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down with a loss of nearly 3 percent.
In the energy sector, Santos is down 3 percent, Oil Search is losing about 2.2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is down with a loss of 0.8 percent and Origin Energy is down 0.6 percent. Caltex Australia is bucking the trend and trading 0.3 percent up.
Aquarius Platinum is trading lower by 6 percent. Alumina, Downer EDI, Whitehaven Coal, Sims Metal Management, CFS Retail Property Trust, Myer Holdings, Metcash and Campbell Brothers are down 2 to 3.5 percent.
Challenger, Lynas Corporation and Panaust are also trading sharply lower.
David Jones Limited announced that sales fell by about three percent in the three months to April. Like-for-like sales, which takes out the impact of store openings and closures, were down 3.1 percent from the same period in the previous year. The stock is currently trading 0.4 percent up.
Ramsay Healthcare and Spark Infrastructure are trading in positive territory, gaining 2.2 percent and 2 percent, respectively. UGL Limited shares are trading higher by about 1.8 percent.
According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the total amount of private capital expenditure was up a seasonally adjusted 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous three months, coming in at A$40.00 billion. That beat forecasts for an increase of 4.0 percent following the downwardly revised 0.7 percent decline in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The seasonally adjusted estimate for buildings and structures rose 10.5 percent in the March quarter, while the estimate for equipment, plant and machinery eased 0.1 percent.
According to another data released by the same bureau, Australian residential building approvals fell 8.74 percent to 10,330 units in April, as compared to a downwardly revised 11,312 units in March, seasonally adjusted. In the year to April, building approvals were down 24.1 per cent.
The Japanese market got off to a weak start, with investors indulging in some heavy selling across the board following a weak lead from overseas markets amid mounting worries about the eurozone economy. A weak U.S. pending home sales data, weak Japanese industrial output data and a stronger yen contributed to the negative start.
With several blue chips still reeling under pressure, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 158.6 points or 1.8 percent at 8,474.6 when the morning session ended.
Electric machinery, steel, non-ferrous metals and manufacturing stocks were mostly down with notable losses. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals stocks traded mixed.
Mirroring widespread selling, only 10 stocks out of the 225 stocks-strong Nikkei index managed to post smart gains.
Among the gainers, Kansai Electric Power gained 2 percent amid hopes the nuclear plant will commence operations again. Chubu Electric Power moved up by around 3.5 percent.
Sojitz Corp, Tokyo Electric Power, All Nippon Airways, MEIJI Holdings Co and Olympus Corp were among the other gainers.
Among the prominent losers, Advantest Corp lost more than 5 percent. Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co. shares drifted down by over 4.5 percent, Canon Inc lost more than 4 percent and JFE Holdings was down by nearly 4 percent.
Mitsumi Electric, Furukawa Electric, Fujikura, Nisshin Steel, Tokyo Electron, Aozora Bank, Pioneer Corp, Yokogawa Electric Corp, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Sony Corp, Pacific Metals and Showa Denko KK declined by 3 to 4 perccent.
Credit Saison, Nippon Steel, Nippon Light Metal, Mitsui & Co., Panasonic Corp, Fast Retailing, Sumitomo Metal Industries and Toho Zinc also posted sharp losses.
Automobile stocks Mazda Motor, Honda Motor, Nissan Motor, Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor were down 2 to 4 percent.
According to data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, industrial production in Japan climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent on month in April, missing forecasts for an increase of 0.5 percent following the 1.3 percent increase in March.
On an annual basis, output climbed 13.4 percent - also missing expectations for an increase of 13.7 percent following the 14.2 percent increase in the previous month.
As a result of the data, the METI maintained its assessment of industrial production, saying, "Industrial production continued to show an upward movement."
Meanwhile, Japanese labor cash earnings rose weaker than forecast in April, data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed Thursday. Total cash earnings rose 0.8 percent year-on-year in April, slower than the 1.1 percent growth expected. This follows a revised 0.9 gain in March. Overtime pay increased 4.9 percent from last year. Special earnings rose 5.7 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded near 79 yen in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 78.82 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are trading notably lower, while Malaysia and New Zealand are down marginally. Markets across the region ended mostly lower on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, stocks tumbled on Wednesday amid concerns about the impact of rising Italian and Spanish bond yields and on disappointing U.S. pending home sales data.
Major European markets too ended notably lower on Wednesday. While the French CAC index tumbled 2.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index lost 1.7 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil futures settled at a seven-month low on Wednesday, on increasing concerns the eurozone debt crisis could peg oil demand growth and fears that the contagion could spread from Greece to Spain and Italy. Oil prices were also impacted after media reports emerged that China may not match the stimulus efforts of 2008, with a much lower spending this time around.
Crude for July delivery dropped $2.94 or 3.2 percent to close at $87.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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