Asian markets are mostly trading weak on Friday with investors taking some profits after recent strong gains. A none too positive lead from Wall Street and renewed worries about the economic situation in the eurozone also appear to be hurting sentiment to an extent.
In the Australian market, financial, energy, consumer staples and industrial stocks are mostly trading lower. Healthcare and property trusts stocks are also trading weak, while mining and telecommunications stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to around 4,055, is currently trading at 4,071, down 37.6 points or 0.8 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 38.7 points or 0.9 percent at 4,118, off the day's low of 4,1103.2.
Key bank stocks ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac are down 1 to 1.5 percent. Bank of Queensland and Bendigo & Adelaide Bank are also trading notably lower.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are up 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Fortescue Metals is trading lower by over 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is down with a loss of 5 percent.
Energy stocks Oil Search, Origin Energy, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Caltex Australia are all trading lower by 0.5 to 1.2 percent.
Oz Minerals is down more than 5 percent. Bluescope Steel, Panaust, Boart Longyear, Suncorp Group, Lynas Corporation, Alumina and Boart Longyear are trading lower by 2.5 to 4 percent.
Wesfarmers, APA Group, Sims Metal Management, Asciano, Perseus Mining, WorleyParsons, Brambles and Mirvac Group are also down sharply.
Echo Entertainment Group Limited shares are up more than 2 percent. James Hardie Industries is gaining about 2.5 percent.
On the economic front, Australia's foreign trade in goods and services resulted in a deficit of A$203 million in April after adjusting for seasonal variations, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Friday. This was smaller than March's A$1.282 billion deficit. Economists' had expected a shortfall of A$900 million for the month.
Exports of goods and services rose marginally to A$26.08 billion from A$25.2 billion in March. At the same time, imports value remained almost steady, at A$26.3 billion compared to A$26.5 billion in the previous month.
According to another report from the same bureau, the number of loan commitments for owner occupied housing in Australia rose 0.2 percent month-on-month on a seasonally adjusted basis in April. Economists expected housing finance to remain flat for the month. The number of dwelling commitments totaled 46,632.
The value of loans for investment homes rose 1.7 percent month-on-month to A$6.877 billion.
The Japanese stock market declined sharply with investors indulging in some profit taking after recent gains. Doubts about additional monetary easing by the U.S. and worries about the eurozone economy following a downgrade in Spain's credit rating too contributed to the market's decline.
Financial, automobile, textiles, rubber and non-ferrous metals stocks lost ground. Foods, electric power and machinery stocks also drifted lower after opening on a mixed note.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 169.4 points or almost 2 percent at 8,470.3 when the morning session ended.
Sharp Corp, Furukawa, Nitto Boseki, Sony Corp, Fast Retailing, Nippon Electric Glass, NEC Corp, Dai-ichi Life Insurance and Nisshin Steel were all down by 3 to 4.5 percent.
Mazda Motor, Tokyo Electron, Credit Saison, Nippon Sheet Glass, Shinsei Bank, Bridgestone Corp, Pacific Metals, Kobe Steel, Olympus Corp and Mitsui Chemicals lost over 2 percent.
Bucking the weak trend, Advantest Corp, Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., Mitsubishi Paper Mills, Eisai Co, Dentsu Inc, Sumco Corp and Tokyo Electric Power moved higher, gaining 0.8 to 2 percent.
On the economic front, Japan's gross domestic product expanded 1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous three months, the Cabinet Office said on Friday in a secondary reading. That beat forecasts for an increase of 1.1 percent following the 1.0 percent gain indicated in last month's preliminary reading.
On a yearly basis, GDP climbed 4.7 percent - also beating expectations for a rise of 4.5 percent after initially showing an increase 4.1 percent.
According to data released by the Ministry of Finance, Japan posted a current account surplus of 333.8 billion yen in April, shy of forecasts for a surplus of 440.8 billion yen following the 1,589.4 billion yen surplus in March. The headline figure was down an annual 21.2 percent - also missing forecasts for an increase of 7.5 percent after falling 8.6 percent in the previous month.
The trade balance reflected a deficit of 463.9 billion yen, also missing forecasts for a shortfall of 450.7 billion yen following the 4.2 billion yen surplus a month earlier. Exports climbed 11.1 percent on year to 5.421 trillion yen, while imports added 11.2 percent on year to 5.885 trillion yen.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan said that overall bank lending in Japan was up 0.4 percent on year in May, standing at 394.442 trillion yen - in line with forecasts following the 0.4 percent annual expansion in April.
Including trusts, bank lending collected 0.3 percent on year to 456.206 trillion yen, also matching forecasts after rising 0.3 percent in the previous month. Foreign bank lending plummeted 21.7 percent on year to 2.234 trillion yen following the 22.7 percent annual plunge a month earlier.
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 79.50 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Malaysia and Indonesia are down marginally, while Shanghai is trading modestly higher. Markets across the region ended mostly higher on Thursday.
On Wall Street, stocks ended on a mixed note on Thursday after failing to sustain early gains. The major averages ended the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line, with the Dow climbing 46.2 points or 0.4 percent to 12,461, while the Nasdaq declined 13.7 points or 0.5 percent to 2,831 and the S&P 500 edged down marginally to 1,315.
Major European markets ended higher on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index gained 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, while the French CAC 40 index ended 0.4 percent up.
U.S. crude oil futures pared gains to close lower on Thursday, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that the Fed would intervene if financial conditions worsen, although without any clarity in the issue. Oil prices had rallied earlier after China announced an unexpected cut in lending rates to stimulate growth.
Crude for July delivery dropped $0.20 or 0.2 percent to close at $84.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after hitting a high of $87.03 during the day.
by RTT Staff Writer
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