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Asian Markets Trade Firm

Asian stock markets are mostly trading higher on Wednesday, tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages posted solid gains overnight amid renewed optimism about the U.S. government fixing the fiscal cliff. Though some of the markets pared some early gains due to resistance at higher levels, the mood remains fairly bullish at present.

After a fairly strong upmove, the Australian market pared some gains with a section of investors turning cautious at higher levels and taking profits.

Energy, consumer staples, healthcare, mining and industrial stocks are trading higher. Healthcare and property trusts stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to around 4,627 in early trades, is currently up 12.8 points or 0.3 percent at 4,608. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 13.5 points or 0.3 percent at 4,624, off the day's high of 4,641.5.

Whitehaven Coal shares are up 5.5 percent following an announcement from the company that it held talks with China's largest coal company, Shenhua Group, but no offers were currently on the table.

Boart Longyear and Iluka Resources are up 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Incitec Pivot, Origin Energy, Macquarie Group and Orica are up 2.3 to 3 percent. James Hardie Industries, Metcash, Computershare and Boral are also trading sharply higher.

Among the losers, Oz Minerals is down 5.3 percent, Perseus Mining is trading lower by 4 percent, Sims Metal Management is down by 3.6 percent and Arrium is down 3 percent. Newcrest Mining, Lynas Corp., Fairfax Media, Myer Holdings and Paladin Energy are also trading notably lower.

Billabong announced that it would consider a A$527 million takeover bid. The stock is currently down more than 11 percent.

The Japanese stock market's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index opened more than 100 points up, breezing past the magical 10,000 mark in the process, as stocks surged higher on hectic buying amid hopes the Bank of Japan will resort to additional monetary easing.

A weaker yen and the overnight strong close on Wall Street also contributed to the buoyant start.

The Nikkei 225 index, which rose to 10,060.9 after opening at 10,025.4, was up 127.3 points or 1.3 percent at 10,050.3 when the morning session ended.

Chemicals, machinery, automobile, steel, non-ferrous metals, real estate and pharmaceuticals stocks were mostly up in positive territory with strong gains.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. shares moved up by over 6 percent. Aozora Bank, Bank of Yokohama, Chiba Bank, Mizuho Financial, Shizuoka Bank and SMFG also rose sharply.

Toyota Motor gained 2.5 percent on reports that the company is planning to increase production next year. Honda Motor, Hino Motors, Mazda Motor, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor and Suzuki Motor moved up by 1 to 3.5 percent.

Ricoh, Taisei Corp., Kobe Steel, Obayashi Corp., Dai-ichi Life Insurance, NTN Corp. and Kurary Co. were up 5 to 7 percent at the break.

Unitika, Shimizu, Canon Inc., Sumitomo Electric Industries, Mitsubishi Materials Corp., IHI Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries, Nomura Holdings, Sharp Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Resona Holdings and Casio Computer also posted strong gains.

Meanwhile, Tokuyama Corp., Heiwa Real Estate, Kyocera Corp., Tokyo Tatemono, Tokyu Land, Nippon Sheet Glass and J Front Retailing traded weak, losing 0.8 to 1.8 percent from their last closing levels.

On the economic front, Japan saw a merchandise trade deficit of 953.4 billion yen in November, down 37.9 percent on year, the Ministry of Finance said. That beat forecasts for a shortfall of 1,035.1 billion yen following the downwardly revised deficit of 551.1 billion yen in October.

Exports were down 4.1 percent on year, also beating forecasts for a 5.5 percent decline following the 6.5 percent contraction in the previous month. Imports added 0.8 percent on year versus expectations for a rise of 0.6 percent after shedding a revised 1.5 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 84 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 84.28 to the dollar.

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

On Wall Street, stocks ended notably higher on Tuesday, amid signs of progress in budget negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The major averages closed near their best levels of the day. The Dow rose 115.6 points or 0.9 percent to 13,351, the Nasdaq jumped 43.9 points or 1.5 percent to 3,054.5 and the S&P 500 surged up 16.4 points or 1.2 percent to 1,446.8.

Major European markets too closed higher on Tuesday. While the German DAX index climbed 0.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index ended higher by 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil settled higher on Tuesday, extending gains for a third straight session, amid hopes of a resolution to the U.S. budget talks that will avert the impending fiscal cliff and optimism of oil demand growth after some upbeat macroeconomic data out of the U.S.

Crude for January delivery gained $0.73 or 0.8 percent to close at $87.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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