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Asian Markets Mixed Amid Cautious Trades

Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Tuesday with investors mostly treading cautiously following a flat lead overnight from Wall Street. Most of the markets in the region saw some hectic buying early on, but retreated from their highs subsequently.

The Australian market is trading marginally higher with investors indulging in some selective buying ahead of key earnings results.

Consumer discretionary, energy and healthcare stocks are trading higher, while financial, mining and industrial stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which advanced to 4,731.5, is currently trading at 4,725, up 5.3 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 5.6 points at 4,751.3, off the day's high of 4,756.8.

Among key bank stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are trading modestly higher, while ANZ Bank (ANZ) and Westpac (WBK) are trading flat. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are up 0.8 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is trading flat, Rio Tinto (RIO) is down 0.6 percent and Fortescue Metals is down with a loss of 1.2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is trading in positive territory with a gain of 2.3 percent.

In the energy sector, Caltex Australia, Origin Energy, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are up 0.5 to 0.8 percent, while Oil Search is trading 0.6 percent down.

Shares of Billabong International are up 13 percent following the company receiving its sixth takeover bid in less than six months. Billabong announced on Monday night that it has received a takeover offer from VF Corp., owner of the North Face and Timberland brands, and U.S. private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners.

The offer matches the A$1.10 a share bid that the surfwear company received in December from the Sycamore consortium led by by former director Paul Naude.

Metcash is trading nearly 3 percent up. Tatts Group, Primary Healthcare, Myer Holdings, Perseus Mining, Dexus Property Group, Iluka Resources, Ramsay Healthcare, CSL and Beach Energy are up 1.5 to 2 percent.

Among the prominent losers, Alumina (AWC) and Bluescope Steel are down 4.8 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Atlas Iron is losing about 3 percent, while Lynas Corp. and Adelaide Brighton are down by around 2.3 percent.

Arrium, QBE Insurance Group and Whitehaven Coal are also trading sharply lower.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened slightly up and was quoting at US$1.0564 in early trades, up from Monday's close of US$1.0556.

The Japanese stock market opened on a firm note with investors picking up stocks, betting on hopes that the Bank of Japan will resort to further monetary easing to boost growth. The yen's decline against the U.S. dollar too contributed significantly to the market's impressive start.

With stocks rallying smartly, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index looks headed for its best close since end April 2010. The index, which opened at 10,903, was up 136 points or 1.3 percent at 10.937.6 when the morning session ended.

Pharmaceuticals, railway, textiles, non-ferrous metals and chemicals stocks were mostly up with strong gains. Electric power, manufacturing and glass & ceramics stocks traded mixed.

Olympus Corp. moved up by over 10 percent. Daikin Industries, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsui OSK Lines, Suzuki Motor, Hino Motors, Daiwa House Industry, Dai-ichi Life Insurance and Casio Computer gained 3.5 to 6 percent.

Fuji Heavy Industries, Inpex Corp., Panasonic Corp. (PC), Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Bank of Yokohama, Sony Corp. (SNE), Kobe Steel and Chubu Electric Power were among the other top gainers.

Sharp Corp. shares lost more than 3 percent on reports that the company has cut production of displays for Apple Inc.'s iPhone due to weaker-than-expected demand for the handset.

TDK Corp. declined by over 3 percent. Asahi Glass, Fanuc Corp., Nikon Corp., Mitsumi Electric, Mitsui Chemicals, Pacific Metals, Aozora Bank, Advantest Corp. and Furukawa Electric lost 1 to 2.3 percent.

In economic news, Japan's M2 money stock climbed 2.6 percent on year to 827.7 trillion yen in December, the Bank of Japan said. That topped forecasts for an increase of 2.1 percent on year, which would have been unchanged from the November reading.

The M3 money stock collected an annual 2.2 percent in December to 1,135.8 trillion yen, the data showed, versus forecasts for a gain of 1.9 percent - which also would have been unchanged. The L money stock added 1.1 percent on year to 1,471.6 trillion yen after rising a revised 0.5 percent in the previous month.

For the fourth quarter of 2012, M2 was up 2.3 percent, M3 added 2.0 percent and L was up 0.7 percent. For all of 2012, M2 was up 2.5 percent, while M3 gained 2.2 percent and L collected 0.4 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-89 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 89.58 to the dollar.

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

On Wall Street, stocks ended on a subdued note Monday with traders mostly treading cautiously ahead of earnings reports. The Dow ended up 0.14 percent, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed lower by around 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

Major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Monday. While the FTSE 100 index ended down 0.2 percent, the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index edged up by 0.06 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil moved higher on Monday and ended up 58 cents at $94.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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