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Asian Markets Mixed After China Economic Data

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Asian stock markets are mixed on Tuesday as investors digested a raft of mixed economic data from China, the world's second largest economy, even as geopolitical concerns eased. Crude oil prices advanced in Asian trades after falling overnight.

Data released by China today showed that the country's gross domestic product or GDP rose 6.8 percent in the first quarter on a yearly basis - in line with expectations and down from 6.9 percent in the previous quarter.

In addition, China's industrial production and fixed asset investment rose in March, but missed forecasts, while retail sales growth in the month exceeded expectations.

The Australian market is advancing, extending gains from the previous session, following the overnight gains on Wall Street. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they digested a raft of economic data from China, Australia's largest trading partner.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 25.60 points or 0.44 percent to 5,866.90, off a high of 5871.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 23.80 points or 0.40 percent to 5,956.80.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton is up 0.1 percent, Rio Tinto is adding 0.5 percent and Fortescue Metals is rising more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are advancing after gold prices edged higher overnight. Evolution Mining is advancing almost 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is up 0.3 percent.

Oil stocks are also gaining, despite crude oil prices declining overnight. Oil Search is up 0.3 percent ahead of the release of its first-quarter results today, while Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.2 percent and Santos is rising 0.6 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent.

Shares of Bank of Queensland are losing more than 1 percent after the company said it will sell its life insurance business to Freedom Insurance Group for A$65 million.

Downer EDI has won a six-and-a-half year, A$600 million contract from Oz Minerals to provide underground services at one of its copper-gold mines. Shares of Downer EDI are adding 0.3 percent.

In economic news, members of the Reserve Bank of Australia's Monetary Policy Committee said that the Australian economy is expected to see continued gradual growth, minutes from the central bank's April 3 meeting revealed on Tuesday. The country's inflation rate is also expected to pick up gradually, the bank said, while global economic conditions remain positive.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7781, up from US$0.7755 on Monday.

The Japanese market is modestly lower, reversing earlier gains, as a stronger yen weighed on shares of exporters.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 28.34 points or 0.13 percent to 21,807.19, after rising to a high of 21,889.89 earlier.

The major exporters are mixed on a stronger yen. Sony is adding 0.2 percent, Canon is rising 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is down 0.2 percent and Panasonic is losing 0.5 percent.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is down 0.2 percent and Honda is edging down less than 0.1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by almost 1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining more than 1 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is adding 0.3 percent, while Japan Petroleum Exploration is declining 0.3 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Chiyoda Corp. is rising 4 percent, Toho Co. is gaining almost 4 percent, and Meiji Holdings is up more than 3 percent.

On the flip side, Mitsui Mining & Smelting is losing more than 4 percent, while Shinsei Bank as well as Kyowa Hakko Kirin are down more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, Japan will see final February numbers for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 107 yen-range on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong are also higher, while Shanghai, South Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan are all lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed notably higher on Monday as traders reacted positively to corporate earnings from financial giant Bank of America as well as a report from the Commerce Department showing stronger than expected retail sales growth in the month of March.

The Dow jumped 212.90 points or 0.9 percent to 24,573.04, the Nasdaq climbed 49.63 points or 0.7 percent to 7,156.28 and the S&P 500 advanced 21.54 points or 0.8 percent to 2,677.84.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on Monday. While the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line, the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slumped by 0.9 percent.

Crude oil prices fell Monday amid the release of the U.S. government's monthly oil production report. June WTI oil settled at $66.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $1.17 or 1.7 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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