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Asian Markets Mostly Lower, But Japanese Market Spurts On BoJ Action

Asian markets are mostly trading lower on Friday with investors treading cautiously ahead of the U.S. jobs data. The Japanese market, however, is up sharply with investors indulging in some heavy buying across the board, buoyed by the Bank of Japan's monetary easing steps.

The Australian market is trading weak with investors pressing sales in energy, healthcare, retail and financial stocks.

Mining and industrial stocks are trading firm, while consumer discretionary and property trusts stocks are trading flat.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which edged up to 4,924 in early trades, is currently down 22.2 points or 0.5 percent at 4,891.3. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 18.4 points or 0.4 percent at 4,901.1, nearly 30 points off an early high of 4,929.7.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are down 0.9 to 1.2 percent. Bank of Queensland is down 2.6 percent and Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is trading marginally down.

Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are up 1.2 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Sonic Healthcare, David Jones, Harvey Norman Holdings and Primary Healthcare are down 2.6 to 4.2 percent. CSL, Qantas Airways, Woodside Petroleum and ALS are also trading sharply lower.

PanAust is trading stronger by 5.5 percent. Challenger, Perseus Mining, Lynas Corp., Adelaide Brighton, Regis Resources and Downer EDI are up 3 to 4.5 percent.

Incitec Pivot, Tabcorp Holdings, Newcrest Mining, Flight Centres and Oz Minerals are also up with strong gains. In the currency market, the Australian market opened flat against the US dollar. In early trades, the Aussie was quoting at US$1.0437, down slightly from Thursday's close of US$1.0441.

The Japanese market got off to a rousing start with investors going on a buying spree, buoyed by the Bank of Japan's additional monetary easing steps.

As stock prices spurted, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index zoomed nearly 600 points to 13,225, its best level since 18 August 2008. Despite paring some gains subsequently, the index was up 475 points or 3.8 percent at 13,109.6 when the morning session ended.

Tokyo Tatemono, the biggest gainer in the Nikkei index, was up more than 21 percent at the break. Tokyo Dome, Tokyu Land, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Mitsui Fudosan, Sumitomo Realty & Development, Mitsubishi Estate, Seven & I Holdings and Shinsei Bank were up 12 to 18 percent.

Heiwa Real Estate, Credit Saison, Citizen Holdings and Bank of Yokohama gained over 10 percent. MS&AD Insurance, Sapporo Holdings, J Front Retailing, NSKJ Holdings, Chiba Bank, Daiwa Securities Group, Hino Motors, Nissan Motor, Fuji Heavy Industries, Hitachi Construction Machinery and Daiwa House Industry gained 7 to 10 percent.

Among the very few stocks that bucked the trend, T&D Holdings was down 8.5 percent, Dai-ichi Life Insurance lost around 7.3 percent and Sony Financial Holdings declined 6.8 percent.

On Thursday, the central bank launched a massive monetary easing program with an aim to reverse 15 years of deflation and stimulate economic recovery.

In a major overhaul of the central bank's policy framework, the Board decided to target the monetary base for framing policies instead of the overnight uncollateralized call rate. The asset purchase program was merged with the regular government bond buys.

Accordingly, the central bank will double its purchases of Japanese government bonds and exchange traded funds, as well as more than double the average remaining maturity of the JGB purchases.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded around the lower 96 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 97.02 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong and South Korea are down sharply. Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore are down with modest losses, while Indonesia is trading modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks ended modestly higher on Thursday, after turning in a lackluster performance throughout much of the session. While a positive reaction to new Japanese monetary policy generated buying interest, disappointing U.S. jobs data limited the upside for the markets.

The Dow rose 55.8 points or 0.4 percent to 14,606.1, the Nasdaq edged up 6.4 points or 0.2 percent to 3,225 and the S&P 500 climbed 6.3 points or 0.4 percent to 1,560.

Major European markets ended lower on Thursday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index tumbled by 1.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index lost 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil ended sharply lower on Thursday, on continued demand growth concerns on some weak U.S. data with first-time claims for unemployment benefits rising for the third consecutive week. Crude for May delivery plunged $1.19 or 1.3 percent to close at $93.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTT Staff Writer

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