Asian stock markets are turning in a mixed performance on Friday with investors mostly treading cautiously amid uncertainty about the U.S. economic outlook following some disappointing economic data.
The Australian stock market drifted lower in early trades with investors pressing some sales amid concerns about the global economy following a batch of weak U.S. economic data. However, thanks to support at lower levels, the market regained some lost ground subsequently and is currently trading around the unchanged line.
Consumer staples, energy and healthcare stocks are trading weak. Mining, financial and industrial stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to around 4,186 after opening flat, is currently trading at 4,208, up 1.3 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 0.7 points at 4,237.1, around 20 points off the day's low of 4,217.3.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are down 0.5 to 0.9 percent, while Westpac is down marginally. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are trading slightly higher.
Among miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are down marginally and Fortescue Metals is losing over 3 percent, while Newcrest Mining is trading modestly higher.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Caltex Australia, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Caltex Australia are all trading lower by 0.3 to 1 percent.
Shares of Hastings Diversified moved higher amid anticipation of a bidding war for the company following the competition watchdog, the ACCC, giving APA Group the nod to pursue the company. Meanwhile, APA Group shares are trading lower by 2.5 percent.
Arrium, David Jones, Echo Entertainment Group, Resmed Inc, Ramsay Healthcare, James Hardie Industries and Bluescope Steel are trading lower by 1.3 to 2.3 percent.
Alumina is trading higher by about 7.5 percent. Seven West Media, which gained over 7 percent in early trades, is currently up 4.5 percent from its previous closing price. Panaust is up 4 percent.
Paladin Energy, Boral, Beach Energy, Fairfax Media and Leighton Holdings are up 2.5 to 4 percent.
Downer EDI, Aurora Oil & Gas, Orica, Boart Longyear and Sydney Airport are also trading notably higher.
Ten Network Holdings is poised to announce the sale of its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp. The stock is currently under a trading halt.
On the economic front, import prices in Australia increased 2.4 percent quarter-on-quarter in the June quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Friday.
This comes after a 1.2 percent decline in the March quarter. Economists were looking for a 1.5 percent increase. The export price index rose 1 percent quarter-on-quarter compared to expectations for no change.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at six-week highs following investors rushing into buy safe-haven currencies on the back of recent weak U.S. economic data. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at $1.0427, up from Thursday's close of $1.0393.
The Japanese stock market opened lower with investors pressing sales on the back of some disappointing U.S. economic data. A stronger yen too contributed to the weak start.
Shares from automobile and exporters sectors were among the early losers, as the latest batch of economic data raised concerns about the U.S. economic outlook.
Financial, insurance and pharmaceuticals stocks mostly traded weak. Shares from precision instruments, services and manufacturing sectors exhibited a mixed trend.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which drifted down to around 8,752, was down 25.3 points or 0.3 percent at 8,770.3 when the morning session ended.
MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings lost more than 4 percent. Tokio Marine Holdings, Sojitz Corp, JFE Holdings and Chubu Electric Power drifted down by over 3 percent.
Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Unitika, Astellas Pharma, Sony Financial Holdings, Nisshin Steel, Olympus Corp and Japan Tobacco lost 2 to 3 percent.
Toho Zinc, Yahoo Japan, Sumitomo Metal Industries, Pacific Metals and Panasonic Corp also drifted lower.
Among banks, Shinsei Bank, Aozora Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial and Shizuoka Bank were all down with notable losses at the break.
Toshiba Corp shares moved up by over 5 percent after its chipmaking partner SanDisk Corp. posted a profit that topped analysts' estimates. However, the stock pared some gains subsequently and was trading higher by about 3 percent when the morning session ended.
Inpex Corp, Konami Corp, Fuji Electric, Furukawa Electric, Fast Retailing, Taiyo Yuden, Citizen Holdings, Tokyo Electric Power, Mitsumi Electric, Fujitsu and Heiwa Real Estate also posted notable gains.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 78 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 78.62 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, New Zealand and Singapore are trading notably lower. South Korea and Hong Kong are up with modest gains, while Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan are up marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended higher on Thursday, with technology stocks adding to the substantial gains posted in the previous session. Disappointing economic data limited the upside for the markets, but stocks still extended their recent upward move.
The major averages all ended the day in positive territory, although the Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts. While the Nasdaq advanced 23.3 points or 0.8 percent to 2,965.9, the Dow rose 34.7 points or 0.3 percent to 12,943.4 and the S&P 500 climbed 3.7 points or 0.3 percent to 1,376.5.
Major European markets too closed higher on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index ended higher by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil rallied to settle sharply higher for a seventh consecutive day Thursday, the best in over eight weeks. Geopolitical issues, lower U.S. crude stockpiles and a weak dollar contributed to the surge in oil prices.
Crude for August delivery ended up $2.79 or 3.1 percent at $92.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after touching a high of $93.25 a barrel intraday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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