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Asian Markets Exhibit Mixed Trend

Asian stock markets are exhibiting a mixed trend Thursday with investors in most parts of the region indulging in some profit taking after the recent gains. Though most of the markets opened on a firm note tracking the Dow's historic surge, some of them retreated soon with a section of traders turning cautious amid uncertainty about near term outlook.

After an early upmove, the Australian stock market is trading weak, with investors taking some profits after recent strong gains. Weak trade data for January is also contributing to the market's decline.

Financial and telecommunications stocks are trading weak. Mining and consumer staples stocks are finding some support, while energy, industrial and healthcare stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to 5,135.7 in early trades, is currently down 19 points or 0.4 percent at 5,097.8. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 16.8 points or 0.3 percent at 5,114.1, more than 30 points off the day's high of 5,148.3.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank is down 1.6 percent, Westpac (WBK) is losing about 1.8 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.6 percent, while National Australia Bank is trading flat. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up 0.5 percent, while Bank of Queensland is trading modestly lower.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are up marginally, while Fortescue Metals and Newcrest Mining are trading lower by 1.2 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are down marginally. Caltex Australia is up nearly 2 percent, while Oil Search and Orign Energy are up 0.3 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.

UGL is trading nearly 5 percent up. Perseus Mining is up almost 4 percent. Treasury Wine Estates, Bluescope Steel, David Jones, Fairfax Media and Myer Holdings are trading higher by 2 to 3 percent. Spark Infrastructure and Downer EDI are also trading sharply higher.

Meanwhile, Seek, ALS, Leighton Holdings, PanAust, Stockland, Whitehaven Coal, CFS Retail Property Trust and Federation Centres are trading lower by 1.3 to 3 percent.

On the economic front, Australia saw a merchandise trade deficit of A$1.06 billion in January, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That was sharply below forecasts for a deficit of A$500 million following the downwardly revised shortfall of A$688 million.

Exports were down 1 percent on month to A$25.02 billion, while imports added 1.0 percent to A$26.08 billion.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at US$1.0244, down 0.4 percent from Wednesday's close of US$1.0284.

The Japanese market opened on a high note, and the benchmark Nikkei 225 index sailed past the 12,000 mark for the first time since 29 September 2008, as Wall Street's positive close and the yen's decline against the greenback lifted investor sentiment.

The Nikkei, which rose to 12,069.6, is currently trading at 12,003.3, up 71 points or 0.6 percent from its previous close.

GS Yuasa Corp. shares are up nearly 8 percent. Tosoh Corp., Nisshin Seifun Group, Olympus Corp., Advantest Corp. (ATE), Asahi Kasei Corp., Sapporo Holdings, Japan Tobacco, Hino Motors, Alps Electric, Yokohama Rubber and Shin-Etsu Chemical are all trading higher by over 3 percent.

Dainippon Screen Manufacturing and NEC Corp. are up nearly 3 percent. Bridgestone Corp. is trading 2.8 percent up on strong operating profit outlook. Trend Micro, NEC Corp., Mazda Motor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Konica Minolta and Unitika are among the other prominent gainers.

Among the losers, Sharp Corp. is down more than 5 percent on profit taking after the previous session's sharp upmove. Tokyo Tatemono is down nearly 3 percent and Yokogawa Electric is down 2.8 percent. J Front Retailing, Obayashi Corp, Komatsu, Mitsumi Electric, Tokyo Electric Power and Toho Zinc are also trading notably lower.

Later in the day, the Bank of Japan will conclude its monetary policy meeting and then announce its decision on interest rates. The central bank is widely expected to keep rates on hold at 0 to 0.10 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 93 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen weakened further subsequently and is currently trading at 94.04 to the dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are trading higher. Shanghai and South Korea are down in negative territory, while Hong Kong and Singapore are trading flat.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance on Wednesday amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent strength.

The major averages ended the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line, although the Dow still reached a new record closing high. While the Nasdaq edged down 1.8 points or 0.1 percent to 3,222.4, the Dow rose 42.5 points or 0.3 percent to 14,296.2 and the S&P 500 inched up 1.7 points or 0.1 percent to 1,541.5.

Major European markets ended mixed on Wednesday. While the German DAX index ended the day up by 0.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index edged down by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 index closed lower by 0.4 percent.

U.S. crude oil settled lower on Wednesday after a weekly report from the Energy Information Administration showed U.S. oil stockpiles to have increased more than expected for the last week. Crude for April delivery ended down $0.39 or 0.4 percent at $90.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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