Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Friday with investors mostly treading cautiously following a weak lead from Wall Street where stocks ended lower overnight as worries about the looming fiscal cliff overshadowed some upbeat economic reports.
After an early upmove and a subsequent fall into negative territory, the Australian market edged higher on support at lower levels and is currently trading marginally up amid cautious trades.
Consumer staples, information technology and property trusts stocks are finding support. Energy, mining, financial and industrial stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,579.8 after rising to around 4,598 in early trades, is currently up 8 points or 0.2 percent at 4,590.8. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 7.2 points or 0.2 percent at 4,600.1, around 10 points off the day's low of 4,590.2.
Caltex Australia shares are up more than 2 percent following the company returning to profitability thanks to a jump in petrol sales.
Atlas iron, Perseus Mining, Paladin Energy, Aurora Oil & Gas and Regis Resources are trading higher by 2 to 2.4 percent. Boral, Investa Office Fund, Suncorp Group and Seek are also trading notably higher.
Iluka Resources is down 3.3 percent. Fairfax Media is trading lower by 2.7 percent and Boart Longyear is down with a loss of 2.3 percent. Lynas Corp., Bluescope Steel, PanAust, Whitehaven Coal, Crown, Tabcorp Holdings, Insurance Australia Group and Ramsay Healthcare are down 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
APN News & Media shares are down more than 6 percent after the company warned of a sharp slump in full-year earnings. APN said weak advertising markets would slice its underlying net profit for calendar 2012 by more than a third.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weak and was quoting at US$1.0515 in early trades, down 0.3 percent from Thursday's close of US$1.0552.
The Japanese market opened lower with a weak Tankan Survey report and the overnight negative close on Wall Street triggering some selling in early trades. Profit taking after recent gains too contributed to the weak start.
However, with a section of investors picking up stocks at lower levels, the market regained some lost ground subsequently.
Insurance, electric power, pharmaceuticals and foods stocks are trading higher. Shares from textiles, marine transport, automobile and precision instruments sections are trading mixed.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to around 9,688 in early trades, was down 8.6 points or 0.1 percent at 9,734.1 when the morning session ended.
Nisshin Seifun Group, Nisshin Steel Holdings, Nippon Light Metal Holdings, Olympus Corp., Alps Electric and Matsui Securities lost 2 to 3 percent.
Hitachi, Nippon Electric Glass, Fast Retailing, Mizuho Financial Group, Mazda Motor, Shinsei Bank, Kobe Steel, Ashai Glass and Nikon Corp. also posted notable losses.
Among the prominent gainers in the Nikkei index, Fujitsu was up more than 5.5 percent. Sharp Corp. gained 5.2 percent.
MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, Chubu Electric Power, Tokyo Electric Power, Unitika, Citizen Holdings, Trend Micro, Kansai Electric Power, Ube Industries, Oki Electric Industry, Casio Computer and Nippon Sheet Glass moved up by 2 to 3.5 percent.
Sony Financial Holdings, Central Japan Railway, Tokio Marine Holdings, Taiheiyo Cement, IHI Corp., Mitsubishi Logistics Corp. and Tobu Railway also posted strong gains.
According to the Bank of Japan's Tankan Survey, large Japanese companies grew more pessimistic about business conditions in the three months to December. The large manufacturers' business sentiment index deteriorated to minus 12 in the December Tankan, compared with minus 3 in the previous September survey.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 83 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 83.69 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai and Hong Kong are trading notably higher. New Zealand and Singapore are up marginally, while Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan are trading weak.
On Wall Street, stocks ended lower on Thursday as lingering concerns about the looming fiscal cliff overshadowed a batch of largely upbeat economic data. Profit taking after the recent upward trend too contributed to the weak close.
The major averages ended the session well off their worst levels of the day but still closed firmly in the red. The Dow eased 74.7 points or 0.6 percent to 13,170.7, the Nasdaq slid 21.6 points or 0.7 percent to 2,992.2 and the S&P 500 dropped 9 points or 0.6 percent to 1,419.5.
Major European markets too ended weak on Thursday. The French CAC 40 index edged down by 0.1 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index dipped 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil settled below $86 a barrel on Thursday, erasing gains made in the previous session, on continued demand growth concerns despite some upbeat macroeconomic data. A higher than expected surge in inventories too contributed to oil's decline.
Crude for January delivery ended down $0.88 or 1 percent at $85.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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