Asian stock markets are mostly trading lower on Thursday, tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks declined overnight amid fears of a possible government shutdown next week. A lack of triggers from the region is also contributing to the sluggish trend in most of the markets.
After a weak start, the Australian market recovered thanks to some strong buying in a few key stocks from mining and energy sections.
Industrial, healthcare and consumer staples stocks are trading weak, while financial and property trusts stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 5,249.3 in early trades, is currently down 1.8 points at 5,274.1. The broader All Ordinaries index is down marginally at 5,270, around 25 points off the day's low of 5,245.3.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are down 0.3 to 0.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading flat. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are trading modestly lower.
Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Fortescue Metals are up 0.8 to 1.7 percent. Newcrest Mining is trading marginally down.
In the energy sector, Santos, Oil Search and Caltex Australia are up 0.3 to 0.6 percent, while Caltex Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy are trading weak.
Mineral Resources is trading lower by about 3 percent. Qantas Airways, WorleyParsons, Asciano, Downer EDI, Bluescope Steel, PanAust, Challenger and APA Group are down 1.5 to 2 percent.
CFS Retail Property Trust, GPT Group, Aurizon Holdings, Sims Metal Management, Aristocrat Leisure and Stockland are also trading notably lower.
Ansell is trading 0.6 percent down. The company said it will pay more than A$42.94 million to buy South Korean glove maker Midas. The takeover will provide it with new manufacturing capabilities in specialised yarn and polyurethane technology, which will be important in accelerating growth of the company's HyFlex range, Ansell said.
Meanwhile, Beach Energy, Adelaide Brighton, Regis Resources, Arrium and Metcash are trading higher, gaining 1.3 to 2.6 percent.
On the economic front, the number of job vacancies rose a seasonally adjusted 3.1 percent in August, to 143,300 from 138,900 in May.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at US$0.9367, up slightly from Wednesday's close of US$0.9360.
After plunging sharply early on in the session on weak cues from Wall Street, the Japanese market rallied smartly on strong support at lower levels, after the yen lost some ground against the greenback.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which tumbled to 14,410.5 in early trades, was up 50 points or 0.3 percent at 14,670.5 when the morning session ended.
Shares of Tokyo Electric Power rose 4 percent amid hopes the utility's nuclear reactors were moving closer to being restarted. Tokyo Dome, Softbank Corp., Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Nippon Sheet Glass moved up 3 to 4 percent.
Fast Retailing, Kobe Steel, Pacific Metals, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Light Metal Holdings, Dowa Holdings, Pioneer Corp., Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Suzuki Motor and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha gained 2 to 3 percent.
Fuji Heavy Industries, Olympus Corp., NTN Corp., Trend Micro, Sharp Corp., Japan Steel Works and Mitsubishi Motors also rose sharply.
Among the losers, Advantest Corp. (ATE) and Tokyu Land were down 5 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Kurary Co., Nippon Electric Glass, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Sapporo Holdings, Shizuoka Bank, Mitsui Chemicals and Sumitomo Chemical were down 2 to 3 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 98 yen-range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 98.61 to the U.S. dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Malaysia and New Zealand are down with modest losses, while Indonesia an South Korea are up marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended lower on Wednesday after a choppy ride, amid lingering concerns about the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of the month.
The major averages all ended the day in the red, with the Dow and the S&P 500 closing lower for the fifth straight day. The Dow declined 61.3 points or 0.4 percent to 15,273.3, the Nasdaq edged down 7.2 points or 0.2 percent to 3,761.1 and the S&P 500 dipped 4.6 points or 0.3 percent to 1,692.8.
Major European markets ended mostly unchanged on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index recovered from their mid-day lows to end the day roughly flat, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index dipped by 0.3 percent.
U.S. crude oil ended lower for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, after a report from the Energy Information Administration showed crude stockpiles in the U.S. to have risen more than expected last week.
Crude for November delivery dropped $0.47 or 0.5 percent to close at $102.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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