Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Friday with investors appearing a bit confused about the near term direction. Though most of the markets in the region are trading well off the day's lows, with a few even managing to rebound into positive territory, the mood remains somewhat cautious due to lingering concerns about the economic situation in Europe.
After a weak start and a subsequent fall, the Australian market rebounded smartly in early afternoon trades with investors thronging several front line counters.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,032.4 after a weak start, is currently at 4,086.2, up 41.4 points or 1 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 52.4 points or 1.3 percent at 4,138, well off the day's low of 4,073.8.
Among bank stocks, National Australia Bank and Westpac are trading modestly lower and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading flat, while ANZ Bank is trading in positive territory with a marginal gain. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are trading flat.
In the mining space, BHP Billiton is trading flat, Rio Tinto is down 0.9 percent and Fortescue Metals is trading with a gain of about 0.5 percent.
Origin Energy announced that it has finalized a 20-year supply contract with a Japanese power company. Origin Energy's JV, Australia Pacific LNG will supply about one million tonnes of LNG to Kansai Electric Power Company over 20 years under an agreement reached on Friday, Origin said.
David Jones Limited shares are up nearly 12.5 percent. The stock is up on reports that the company has received a takeover offer from an entity in the United Kingdom.
Onesteel, Myer Holdings, Alumina and Bluescope Steel are trading higher by 3 to 4.5 percent.
Asciano has confirmed its forecast for higher earnings in the second-half of the 2011/2012 financial year. The ports and rail operator, which posted earnings before interest and tax of A$295 million in the six months to December 31, 2011, said EBIT in the six months to June 30 would exceed that. The stock is trading higher by over 2.5 percent.
Harvey Norman Holdings, JB Hi-Fi, Paladin Energy, WorleyParsons, QBE Insurance Group, Atlas Iron, Newcrest Mining and UGL are up 1.5 to 2.3 percent.
Metcash is down as much as 9 percent. Regis Resources, Amcor, News Corporation, Westfield Retail Trust and Computershare are trading lower by 1.4 to 2.2 percent.
The Japanese market declined sharply in early trades with a bigger-than-expected fall in Japanese industrial production as well as lingering worries about the economic situation in Europe hurting sentiment to a notable extent and triggering a sell-off.
However, with several front line stocks finding support at lower levels, the market regained most of the lost ground and is currently down just marginally from the unchanged line.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to 8,803 in early trades, was down 11.2 points or 0.1 percent at 8,862.9 when the morning session ended.
Minebea Co. shares lost more than 4 percent. TDK Corp. drifted down by around 3.5 percent. Nippon Sheet Glass, Japan Tobacco, Advantest Corp, Showa Shell KK, Nippon Yusen, Fanuc Corp and Sony Corp lost 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
Tokyo Electric Power, Aozora Bank, Showa Denko KK, Sharp Corp, Fast Retailing, Nisshin Steel and NEC Corp were among the other notable losers.
Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Nomura Holdings gained 3.5 to 4 percent. Kajima Corp, Nippon Electric Glass, Asahi Glass, Suzuki Motor, Pioneer Corp, Nippon Light Metal and Nissan Chemical Industries were all trading higher by over 2 percent.
Kansai Electric Power, Japan Steel Works, Resona Holdings, Shizuoka Bank, Bank of Yokohama, Toyota Motor, Mazda Motor, Kobe Steel and Olympus Corp also posted notable gains.
According to data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japanese industrial production fell 3.1 percent in May.
Meanwhile, the Japanese consumer price index fell in May, down for the first time since January, due to a slowdown in global demand. Core CPI was down 0.1 percent in May, as compared to the corresponding month last year. In April, the index had risen 0.2 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 79 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 79.25 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan are trading notably higher and Malaysia is up with modest gains. Shanghai, New Zealand and South Korea are trading weak. Markets across the region turned in a mixed performance on Thursday.
On Wall Street, stocks ended lower on Thursday after seeing significant weakness almost right through the session. Lingering concerns about the financial situation in Europe contributed to the early weakness on Wall Street along with a negative reaction to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's healthcare reform law, including the law's individual insurance mandate.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq underperformed its counterparts, ending the session down 25.8 points or 0.9 percent at 2,849.5. The Dow edged down 24.7 points or 0.2 percent to 12,602.3, while the S&P 500 ended lower by 2.8 points or 0.2 percent at 1,329.
Major European markets too ended lower on Thursday. The German DAX index tumbled by 1.3 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index declined by 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil futures plunged to an eight-month low on Thursday, amid concerns over the outcome of the European Union summit meeting that is underway, a strong U.S. dollar and as well on a decline is U.S. equity markets. Crude for August delivery dropped $2.52 or 3.1 percent to close at $78.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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