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Asian Markets Mostly Trade Higher

Asian stock markets are mostly trading in positive territory on Wednesday, with investors shrugging off a weak lead from Wall Street where stocks ended lower overnight.

A better than expected show by U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa in the December quarter appears to be prompting investors to indulge in some selective buying in the region.

In the Australian market, consumer staples, financials, healthcare, information technology and property trusts stocks are edging higher, while mining and energy stocks are mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 18.8 points or 0.4 percent at 4,709. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,730, up 17.7 points or 0.4 percent from its previous close.

Among bank stocks, National Australia Bank is up nearly a percent, Westpac (WBK) is adding 0.8 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up marginally, while ANZ Bank is trading slightly weak. Bendigo & Adelaide and Bank of Queensland are trading modestly higher.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP, BBL) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are trading flat.

Shares of U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa's joint venture partner Alumina (AWC) are up nearly 5 percent. After trading hours on Tuesday, Alcoa had reported a better than expected surge in earnings and raised its earnings guidance.

Mirvac Group is up nearly 3.5 percent. Stockland, Flight Centre, Westfield Group, Carsales.Com and Caltex Australia are up 1.5 to 2 percent. Bluescope Steel, Goodman Group, GPT Group, Suncorp Group, Investa Office Fund and Amcor are also trading notably higher.

Harvey Norman Holdings is down nearly 4 percent. Myer Holdings, PanAust and Toll Holdings are trading lower by 2.5 to 3 percent. Oz Minerals, Perseus Mining and Origin Energy are also trading notably lower.

In economic news, Australian retail spending fell 0.1 per cent in November, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retail trade fell in the month to a seasonally adjusted A$21.53 billion, compared to a downwardly revised A$21.55 billion in October, the bureau said.

The Japanese stock market opened lower, with investors taking some profits after recent strong gains. The yen's surge against the U.S. dollar too contributed to the weak start.

However, with investors indulging in some brisk buying at lower levels, the market rebounded smartly and was trading notably higher when the morning session ended.

Automobile, steel, non-ferrous metals, coal an financial stocks opened notably lower, but regained some lost ground subsequently. Insurance, retail, pharmaceuticals and mining stocks were mixed.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to 10,398.6 in early trades, was up 51.2 points or almost 0.5 percent at 10,559.2 at the end of the morning session.

Among the prominent gainers in the Nikkei index, Tokyo Dome, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, TDK Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Yaskawa Electric gained 3 to 6 percent.

Toho Co. shares moved up by over 5 percent and hit a new yearly high, thanks to a record net profit posted by the company for the six months ended November 2012. Sumitomo Osaka Cement, Hitachi, Olympus Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries, Aozora Bank and Yokogawa Electric gained over 2 percent.

Nippon Sheet Glass, Ebara Corp., Taiyo Yuden, Oki Electric Industry, IHI Corp., Asahi Glass, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Heiwa Real Estate also posted strong gains.

Kobe Steel, Kansai Electric Power, Softbank Corp., Canon Inc. (CAJ), Fuji Electric, Nisshin Steel Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings lost more than 2 percent.

Japan Tobacco, Panasonic Corp. (PC), Inpex Corp., Tokyo Electric Power, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU), Mizuho Financial (MFG), SMFG, Mitsubishi Motors and Sharp Corp. also declined sharply.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded slightly below 87 yen in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 87.40 to the dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Taiwan are trading modestly higher. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are up marginally, while Shanghai is trading slightly weak.

On Wall Street, stocks ended weak on Tuesday, with traders expressing uncertainty about the upcoming earnings season. Profit taking after last week's gains too contributed to the lower close.

The major averages climbed well off their worst levels of the day but remained stuck in negative territory. The Dow declined 55.4 points or 0.4 percent to 13,328.8, the Nasdaq dipped 7 points or 0.2 percent to 3,091.8 and the S&P 500 slid 4.7 points or 0.3 percent to 1,457.2.

Major European markets ended mixed on Tuesday. While the French CAC 40 index closed just above the unchanged line, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index ended lower by 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil advanced toward a four-month high, but gave up gains and ended lower on Tuesday. Crude for February delivery ended down $0.04 at $93.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after very nearly breaching the $94 a barrel mark.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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