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Asian Markets Trade Weak On Eurozone Worries

Asian stock markets are mostly trading notably lower on Tuesday with investors pressing sales, amid worries about instability in the eurozone following former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party staying slightly ahead in the Italian elections.

In the Australian market, consumer staples, mining, financial and energy stocks are mostly trading lower. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which plunged to 4,978.4 in early trades, is currently down 34.8 points or 0.7 percent at 5,021. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 35.2 points or 0.7 percent at 5,037.5, well off the day's low of 4,997.5.

Atlas Iron is trading lower by 4 percent following the company posting a first-half loss of A$256 million. The loss includes A$455 million in charges related to impairments on Atlas' undeveloped Horizon 1 and 2 project areas and other tenements. The NSW-focused miner's result in the six months to December 31 was down from an A$19.9 million profit in the previous corresponding period.

Sims Metal Management is down 3 percent and Flight Centre is trading lower by 3.2 percent.

QBE Insurance Group shares are trading lower by 2.4 percent following the company reporting a rise of 8 percent in annual profit, lower than previously forecast due to severe droughts and storms in the United States.

Harvey Norman Holdings, Boral, ALS, Suncorp Group, Myer Holdings, Arrium, Metcash and Fortescue Metals are trading lower by 2.5 to 3 percent.

Caltex Australia, Whitehaven Coal, Incitec Pivot, Echo Entertainment Group, Alumina (AWC) and Origin Energy are also trading sharply lower.

Seven Group Holdings shares lost more than a percent, despite the company reporting a 20 percent surge in full year profit.

Virgin Australia declined by over 2 percent following a sharp 56 percent decline in first half profit.

Meanwhile, Perseus Mining, Newcrest Mining, Santos and Commonwealth Property Office Fund are trading in positive territory, gaining 2 to 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar edged higher against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at US$1.0289, up marginally from Monday's close of US$1.0279.

In Tokyo, stocks tumbled in early trades with a stronger yen and concerns about the eurozone economy following uncertainty about the outcome of the Italian elections triggering some heavy selling across the board.

Despite regaining some lost ground subsequently, the market was fairly deep down in negative territory at the end of the morning session, with several front line stocks reeling under a severe bout of selling pressure.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which plummeted nearly 300 points to 11,662.5 in early trades, was down 160.2 points or 1.4 percent at 11,502.3 at the break.

Tokai Carbon, Toyo Seikan Kaisha, Yokogawa Electric Corp., Mitsumi Electric, Nisshinbo Holdings, Advantest Corp. (ATE) and Yaskawa Electric Corp. were down by over 3 percent.

Sony Corp. (SNE), Toho Zinc, Fast Retailing, J Front Retailing, Trend Micro, Fujitsu, JFE Holdings Inc., Fujikura, Olympus Corp. and Nissan Motor were trading lower by 2 to 2.8 percent.

Japan Tobacco Inc. lost nearly 3 percent on reports the government is likely to sell a stake in the company.

Honda Motor (HMC), Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki Motor, Panasonic Corp. (PC), Aozora Bank and Chiba Bank also posted notable losses.

Among the stocks that are bucking the trend, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha moved up by nearly 7 percent, Maruha Nichiro Holdings gained 3.7 percent, Credit Saison added 3 percent, Tokyu Land surged up 2.5 percent and Tokyo Tatemono gained 2.3 percent.

Sumitomo Realty & Development, Mitsui OSK Lines, Mitsubishi Estate, Nippon Yusen KK and Furukawa Co. were among the other notable gainers.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-92 yen range in early deals in Tokyo, after plunging to mid-90 levels in New York. The yen is currently trading at 92.50 to the dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Malaysia is down marginally, while Shanghai and New Zealand are up with modest gains.

On Wall Street, stocks declined sharply on Monday amid concerns about the eurozone economy. Uncertainty about whether lawmakers in Washington will be able to reach an agreement to avoid the automatic government spending cuts due to go into effect at the end of the month also weighed on the markets.

The major averages ended the sessions at their worst levels of the day. The Dow plunged 216.4 points or 1.6 percent to 13,784.2, the Nasdaq tumbled 45.6 points or 1.4 percent to 3,116.3 and the S&P 500 plummeted 27.8 points or 1.8 percent to 1,587.8.

Major European markets closed higher on Monday. While the German DAX index jumped 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil ended a tad lower on Monday, mostly on demand concerns after some soft macroeconomic data out of China suggested a slowdown in manufacturing sector growth. Crude for April delivery dropped $0.02 or 0.02 percent to close at $93.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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