Asian stock markets started off on a bright note on Thursday with the overnight strong close on Wall Street following some upbeat economic data prompting investors to indulge in fairly heavy buying.
However, most of the markets in the region gave up a substantial portion of their early gains, and some of them even slipped into negative territory, as the mood turned cautious amid lingering worries about the economic situation in Europe.
In the Australian market, financial, mining, consumer discretionary stocks moved up sharply in morning trades, but gave up most of their gains post noon. Energy and information technology stocks are trading weak.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to around 4,074 earlier in the day, is currently up just 5.3 points at 4,048.5. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 4.8 points at 4,088.8, well off the day's high of 4,113.7.
Westfield Retail Trust, Sims Metal Management, Aurora Oil & Gas, Goodman Group and Monadelphous Group are trading higher by 2 to 3 percent. Campbell Brothers, Atlas Iron, Incitec Pivot and Tabcorp Holdings are also trading notably higher.
Santos is trading lower by about 6.5 percent. Boral is down nearly 5 percent and Alumina is down with a loss of 4.2 percent.
Boart Longyear, Bluescope Steel and Fairfax Media are down 3.5 to 4 percent. Insurance Australia Group, Paladin Energy, Origin Energy, Myer Holdings and Leighton Holdings are also trading notably lower.
Caltex Australia expects its first-half profit to rise by up to 81 percent percent due to higher refinery production. The company announced that its net profit for the six months to June 30, on a replacement cost basis, is likely to be between A$185 million and A$205 million, up from A$113 million in the previous first half. Caltex Australia rose more than 3 percent early on in the session, but pared most of its gains subsequently.
Aurora Oil & Gas is up nearly 4.5 percent. News Corporation, Iluka Resources, Regis Resources, Campbell Brothers, Monadelphous Group, Tatts Group, Centro Retail Australia and Goodman Group are trading higher by 1.5 to 3.2 percent.
Grocery wholesaler Metcash's full-year profit has dropped by 63 percent because of the cost of its major restructure. The company says its sales rose slightly in the year to April 30 and underlying profit grew by 2.5 percent to A$262.5 million.
The central bank's recent decisions to cut interest rates don't seem to have affected Australia's housing market, according to an industry study. According to data released by the Housing Industry Association, new home sales rose by a mere 0.7 percent in May, after a 6.9 percent rise in April. Much of May's overall small increase was due to a 21.1 percent rise in multi-unit sales, while detached house sales dropped by 2 percent in the month, the data showed.
Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies in Australia declined by 5.3 percent in the three months to May, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. The total number of vacancies in the May 2012 quarter was 172,500, in seasonally-adjusted terms, compared with 182,100 in the February quarter, according to the bureau.
Buoyed by the overnight strong close on Wall Street on the back of some encouraging economic data, the Japanese market opened on an upbeat note with investors indulging in some hectic buying across the board.
Steel, non-ferrous metals, foods, precision instruments, automobile and financial stocks posted strong gains. Stocks from retail and services sectors also attracted buyers.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 8,852 following a bright start, was up 79.7 points or 0.9 percent at 8,810.2 at the end of the morning session.
Unitika Ltd shares gained more than 4.5 percent. Chubu Electric Power, NTT Data Corp, Ebara Corp, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Japan Tobacco and Dai-ichi Life Insurance moved up by over 3 percent.
Tokio Marine, Credit Saison, Mitsubishi Estate, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Nisshin Steel, Kansai Electric Power, Panasonic Corp, Terumo Corp, Isuzu Motors, Nippon Sheet Glass, JFE Holdings and Fujifilm Holdings Corp also moved up sharply.
In the banking space, Mizuho Financial, Bank of Yokohama, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Aozora Bank, SMFG, Chiba Bank and Shizuoka Bank gained 1.5 to 3 percent.
Eisai Co. shares surged nearly 2.5 percent up on reports the company has won approval for its weight-loss drug from the USFDA.
Shares of Nitori Holdings Inc. moved up sharply following an announcement from the company that its net profit rose 26 percent in the March-May 2012 quarter.
Meanwhile, Chiyoda Corp, Pioneer Corp, Taisei Corp, Mitsubishi Motors, Showa Denko KK, Sumitomo Osaka Cement, Mitsumi Electric and Nippon Light Metal drifted lower, losing 1 to 2.5 percent from their previous closing prices.
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 79.44 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong are trading marginally higher, while Shanghai, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea are trading weak. Markets across the region ended higher on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, stocks ended higher on Wednesday, as traders reacted positively to a batch of relatively upbeat U.S. economic data. Much of the strength on Wall Street stemmed from the release of separate reports showing bigger than expected increases in durable goods orders and pending home sales.
The major averages ended the day firmly in positive territory, not far off their highs for the session. The Dow rose 92.3 points or 0.7 percent to 12,627, the Nasdaq climbed 21.3 points or 0.7 percent to 2,875.3 and the S&P 500 advanced 11.9 points or 0.9 percent to 1,331.9.
Major European markets too ended on a buoyant note on Wednesday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index jumped 1.4 percent, while the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index soared 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil futures ended higher on Wednesday, on some positive economic data and an Energy Information Administration report that showed U.S. oil stockpiles to have declined, although lesser than expected.
Crude for August delivery gained $0.85 or 1.1 percent to close at $80.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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