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Asian Markets Exhibit Mixed Trend

Despite a fairly positive sentiment on the back of a strong close on Wall Street overnight, Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Wednesday with investors in some parts of the region choosing to wait for some clear positive signals about the near term outlook for the global economy. Traders are tracking earnings reports and regional economic data for direction.

The Australian stock market is trading firm, with investors picking up stocks from across various sectors.

Energy, mining, financial, consumer staples and healthcare stocks are mostly up with strong gains. Stocks from property trusts and industrial sectors are also trading notably higher.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 45 points or 0.9 percent at 4,927.7. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,946.6, up 44 points or 0.8 percent from its previous close.

Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are up 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Bank stocks ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are up 0.8 to 1.2 percent.

Atlas Iron is up nearly 6 percent. Boral is trading higher by 4.8 percent. ALS, Arrium and Downer EDI are up 3.2 to 3.6 percent. Primary Healthcare is trading 2 percent up following the company reporting a 50 percent jump in first-haf profit.

Fairfax Media is adding nearly 3 percent. QBE Insurance Group, Oil Search, Carsales. Com, Seek, Sims Metal Management, Investa Office Fund, Woolsworths, Iluka Resources, CFS Retail Property Trust Group and Dexus Property Group are all trading higher by 2 to 2.8 percent.

On the economic front, retail sales in December were down a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent on month in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday. That was well shy of forecasts for an increase of 0.3 percent following the upwardly revised 0.2 percent contraction in November.

For the fourth quarter of 2012, retail sales added just 0.1 percent compared to the previous three months. That also missed forecasts for an increase of 0.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the previous month following an upward revision.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened slightly higher against the U.S. dollar following a rally in equity markets. In early trades, the Aussie was quoting at US$1.0412, up from Tuesday's close of US$1.0406.

The Japanese stock market rallied sharply with investors going on a buying spree almost across the board, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street. The yen's decline against the U.S. dollar also contributed substantially to the market's sharp rise.

Bank stocks moved higher on hopes of monetary easing. Automobile, steel, non-ferrous metals, construction and manufacturing stocks also posted strong gains.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which opened nearly 200 points up at 11,236, was up 343.9 points or 3.1 percent at 11,390.8 when the morning session ended.

Toyo Seikan Kaisha vaulted as much as 16 percent. Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding gained nearly 12 percent. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Nissan Chemical Industries, Kobe Steel and Oki Electric Industry were up more than 7 percent at the break.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy Industries, Fuji Electric, Daikin Industries, Mitsui OSK Lines, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Shionogi all gained more than 5 percent.

In the automobile space, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) shares more than 5 percent following the company raising its profit forecast. Honda Motor (HMC) moved up 3 percent, Isuzu Motors gained 4.4 percent, Nissan Motor climbed up nearly 5 percent, Suzuki Motor advanced by 2.5 percent and Mitsubishi Motors gained 1.7 percent.

Among bank stocks, Mizuho Financial Group (MFG) was up 5.5 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings moved up by 5.8 percent and Shinsei Bank gained 6.5 percent. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU), Bank of Yokohama and Aozora Bank also posted strong gains.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-93 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 93.78 to the dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong and Taiwan are trading notably higher. Indonesia and South Korea are up marginally. Malaysia is trading notably lower, while Shanghai and Singapore are flat.

On Wall Street, stocks ended notably higher Tuesday, due largely on some bargain hunting after the previous session's setback. The Dow rose 99.2 points or 0.7 percent to 13,979.3, the Nasdaq jumped 40.4 points or 1.3 percent to 3,171.6 and the S&P 500 moved up 15.6 points or 1 percent to 1,511.3.

Major European markets too closed on a firm note Tuesday. While the French CAC 40 index gained 1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index ended higher by 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil settled higher on Tuesday, amid hopes of a surge in demand following concerns about disruption in supply from the Middle East. Crude for March delivery ended up $0.47 or 0.5 percent at $96.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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