Plus   Neg

Asian Markets Mostly Trade Lower

Asian stock markets are mostly trading in negative territory on Friday as weaker than expected GDP results in the Eurozone led to renewed concerns about the global economy. Investors also treaded cautiously ahead of the G-20 meeting in Moscow over the weekend.

The Australian stock market is trading lower, backing down from four-and-a-half years, as disappointing earnings results of banks and miners weighed on investor sentiment.

In early morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is down 9.40 points or 0.19 percent to 5,027.50, while the All Ordinaries Index is trading lower by 8.20 points or 0.16 percent to 5,049.00.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton (BHP) is trading lower by 0.62 percent and Rio Tinto (RIO) is declining 2.07 percent.

Rio Tinto on Thursday reported a loss for fiscal 2012 after recording impairment charges of $14.36 billion. The mining giant reported a loss of $2.99 billion for 2012, compared to profit of $5.83 billion in the prior year.

Among banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.04 percent, while National Australia Bank is adding 1.11 percent and Westpac (WBK) is up 0.14 percent.

ANZ Banking's net profit for the first quarter dropped by about 20 percent from last year to A$1.36 billion. However, the lender's unaudited underlying profit for the quarter rose 6.2 percent from the year-ago period to A$1.53 billion. The company's shares are trading lower by 0.84 percent.

Sims Metal Management (SMS) said it will write down the value of inventory at its British operations by A$78 million after discovering a possible case of fraud. Accordingly, the recycler will record an impairment charge of A$354 million, related to its UK and US operations, against its results for the half year ended December 31, 2012. Shares of the company are trading lower by more than 2 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading flat against the U.S. dollar following weak eurozone data and encouraging U.S. jobs figures. In early morning trades, the local unit was trading at US$1.0349, down from US$1.0350 on Thursday.

The Japanese market is trading in negative territory as a stronger yen weighed on export-oriented stocks. Investors treaded cautiously following weaker than expected GDP results in the Eurozone - especially those in the largest economies of Germany and France.

In the auto sector, Toyota Motor (TM) is trading lower by 2.60 percent and Honda Motor (HMC) is declining 2.71 percent. Among exporters, Canon (CAJ) is down 0.90 percent, Panasonic (PC) is losing 2.68 percent and Casio Computer Co. is declining 2.96 percent.

Shares of Orix Corp. (IX) are trading lower by 1.86 percent. The Nikkei business daily reported that the leasing company is in the final stages of talks to buy asset management company Robeco, an affiliate of Dutch lender Rabobank, for about 250 billion yen.

Shares of Trend Micro are down more than 8 percent. The computer security company reported Thursday that its profit for the year to December declined 22 percent from last year to 13.4 billion yen.

On the economic front, Japan is on Friday scheduled to release final December figures for industrial production and capacity utilization.

Little change is expected from last month's preliminary reading that showed a 7.8 percent annual contraction and a 2.5 percent monthly gain for output, as well as a 0.2 percent monthly decline in capacity utilization.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was trading in the lower 93 yen-range on Friday. In early morning trades, the dollar was quoted in a range of 92.97-93.00 yen, down 0.48 from Thursday's close of 93.45-93.46 yen in Tokyo.

Among other markets in the region, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore are trading in negative territory. Meanwhile, Indonesia and South Korea are trading higher. The markets in Taiwan and China remain closed on Friday for the Lunar New Year holidays. Both will re-open on Monday.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in another lackluster performance over the course of trading on Thursday after recovering from an early move to the downside. The major averages eventually closed mixed for the third consecutive session.

The early weakness on Wall Street came as reports showing contractions in fourth quarter GDP in Germany, France, and Japan led to renewed concerns about the global economy.

While the major averages all closed near the unchanged line, the Dow posted a modest loss. The Dow edged down 9.52 points or 0.1 percent to 13,973.39, while the Nasdaq crept up 1.78 points or 0.1 percent to 3,198.66 and the S&P 500 inched up 1.05 points or 0.1 percent to 1,521.38.

The European markets finished in the red on Thursday, dragged lower by weaker than expected GDP results in the Eurozone. Larger than expected economic contractions, especially those in Germany and France, weighed on investor sentiment. Thursday's session was also negatively impacted by some mixed earnings reports.

The DAX of Germany dropped 1.05 percent and the CAC 40 of France fell 0.78 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. decreased 0.41 percent and the SMI of Switzerland closed flat.

U.S. crude oil ended higher Thursday, on some upbeat jobs claims data even as investors weighed some supply concerns due to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. Nevertheless, a strengthening dollar limited some of the gains made by oil intraday.

Crude Oil futures for March delivery gained $0.30 or 0.3 percent to close at $97.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Wednesday.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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