Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Friday with investors mostly treading cautiously following a subdued close on Wall Street overnight. Profit taking and some weak earnings reports are dragging down some markets.
However, with no prominent triggers to warrant any strong buying or selling, most of the markets are swinging between gains and losses amid somewhat lacklustre trades.
After moving up marginally in early trades, the Australian stock market pared its modest gains and slipped into negative territory with investors indulging in some profit taking after recent gains.
Energy, industrial and mining stocks are finding some support, while financial, information technology and telecommunications are mostly trading weak.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which edged up to 4,313.2 in early trades, is currently trading at 4,292.8, down 15.5 points or 0.4 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 12 points or 0.3 percent at 4,318.1, off the day's high of 4,336.1.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP: Quote,BBL: Quote) and Rio Tinto (RIO: Quote,RIO.L) are up marginally, while Fortescue Metals and Newcrest Mining are trading flat.
In the energy sector, Santos is up 1.1 percent, Origin Energy is gaining about 1.3 percent and Woodside Petroleum is up 0.3 percent, while Oil Search and Caltex Australia are down 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
Among bank stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK: Quote) are down 1.2 to 1.5 percent, while ANZ Bank (ANZ: Quote) is trading 0.4 percent up. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are down 1.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
Crown Limited's full-year profit jumped 53 percent to A$513.3 million in the year to June 30, 2012, due to higher revenues from Australian operations. The stock is trading nearly 3 percent up.
Shares of property management and development company Goodman Group are up 1.7 percent following the company reporting a full-year net profit of A$408.3 million, up 4.2 percent on a net profit of A$392 million it had posted in the previous year.
Panaust, Sims Metal Management, Boart Longyear, Seven West Media, News Corporation (NWS: Quote,NWSA: Quote) and Iluka Resources are up 2.5 to 4 percent.
Campbell Brothers, Qantas Airways, Boral, Atlas Iron and Leighton Holdings are also up with strong gains.
Tabcorp Holdings is down more than 8 percent. Tatts Group, Telstra Corporation, AGL Energy and Computershare are trading lower by 1.6 - 2 percent.
On the economic front, the Reserve Bank of Australia on Friday lifted its forecast for economic growth this year, but expects growth in domestic demand to moderate in the near-term.
The gross domestic product is now projected to grow 3.5 percent in the year through December 2012, slightly faster than the 3 percent predicted in the May, according to the central bank's latest Monetary Policy Statement.
For the year ending December 2013, GDP is seen expanding 2.5-3.5 percent, unchanged from the May forecast.
However, the central bank retained its inflation forecasts. The bank said CPI inflation may rise to 3 percent over the coming year, reflecting the effects of earlier volatility in fruit and vegetable prices and the carbon price passing through to consumer prices.
The Japanese stock market drifted lower, snapping a four-session winning streak, with investors indulging in some selling amid a few weak earnings reports. A flat lead from Wall Street and concerns about a likely slowdown of the Japanese economy also contributed to the market's weakness.
Pharmaceuticals, foods, automobile, chemicals and communications stocks declined. Electric power, machinery and retail stocks edged higher, but pared most of their gains as the session progressed.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 54.5 points or 0.6 percent at 8,934.1 when the morning session ended.
Trend Micro Inc shares plunged more than 11 percent with investors pressing heavy sales at the counter after the company said net profit for July-September is likely to be significantly lower.
Sumitomo Realty & Development, Mitsubishi Motors, Tokyo Dome, Olympus Corp, Taisei Corp, Secom and Nissan Chemical Industries lost 2 to 3.5 percent.
Fast Retailing drifted down by nearly 2 percent. Japan Tobacco, Yahoo Japan, Bridgestone Corp, Dowa Holdings, Furukawa, Softbank Corp, Honda Motor (HMC: Quote) and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU: Quote) also posted notable losses.
Among the prominent gainers, Taiyo Yuden moved up nearly 10 percent. Oki Electric Industry gained 7.5 percent after the previous session's terrible setback.
NTN Corp, Sharp Corp, Konami Corp, Pacific Metals and Asahi Glass advanced by 3 to 5 percent.
Sony Corp (SNE: Quote,SON.L) gained nearly 4.5 percent following the company offering to buy out online shopping site So-net Entertainment Corp.
Asahi Glass, Nippon Paper Group, Mitsubishi Materials, Pioneer Corp, Mitsubishi Chemicals and MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings also posted strong gains.
On the economic front, an index measuring the prices of domestic corporate goods was down 0.4 percent on month in July, the Bank of Japan said on Friday, showing a score of 100.1. That was well below forecasts for an increase of 0.1 percent following the downwardly revised 0.7 percent contraction in June (originally -0.6 percent).
On a yearly basis, prices plummeted 2.1 percent versus forecasts for a decline of 1.5 percent following the downwardly revised fall of 1.4 percent (originally 1.3 percent).
The Export price index fell 0.5 percent on month, while the import price index plunged 2.3 percent.
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 78.60 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Malaysia are up in positive territory, while Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Taiwan are trading higher. Markets across the region had ended mostly higher on Thursday.
On Wall Street, stocks turned in a lacklustre performance on Thursday with traders refraining from making significant moves. The major averages remained stuck near the unchanged line throughout the session after ending the previous session nearly flat.
The Dow edged down 10.4 points or 0.1 percent to 13,165.2, while the Nasdaq rose 7.4 points or 0.3 percent to 3,018.6 and the S&P 500 crept up 0.6 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 1,402.8.
Major European markets too ended on a mixed note on Thursday. While the German DAX index closed just below the unchanged line, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index edged up by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 index gained 0.5 percent.
U.S. crude oil settled a penny higher on Thursday, mostly on expectation of further monetary policy easing after data from China showed a drop in Chinese consumer price inflation to a 30-month low in July.
Crude oil for September delivery gained $0.01 to close at $93.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after scaling a high of $94.21 a barrel intraday.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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