RTTNews - Asian markets are trading higher on Thursday despite a mixed lead overnight from Wall Street after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged. However, the Federal Reserve's announcement that it saw some improvement in the economy, and an unexpected rise in U.S. durable goods orders helped buoy investor sentiment. Tech stocks are advancing after Oracle Corp.'s fourth-quarter earnings results beat analysts' estimates, while mining stocks are gaining on the back of higher base metal prices.

U.S. stocks closed mostly higher on Wednesday, although the major averages turned in a mixed performance after the Federal Reserve announced it would keep interest rates unchanged. While the central bank noted some improvement in the economy and removed its warning about the possibility of deflation, many economists believe the historically low rates could remain for some time, leaving worries that the massive stimulus efforts could lead to inflation down the road.

A report from the U.S. Commerce Department that showed that durable goods orders for May rose by 1.8%, matching a revised increase in April. The increase surprised economists, who had expected a decline of 0.9 percent.

In Asian trades Thursday, crude oil is trading at US$68.46, down US$0.21 or 0.31%. Crude oil closed a choppy session modestly lower on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged. Investors also mulled over the Energy Department's weekly inventory report, which showed a drop in crude stocks but a rise in gasoline supplies. Light sweet crude for August delivery dropped to US$68.67 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down US$0.57 on the session.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading higher against the Japanese yen and the Australian dollar on Thursday, while it is trading lower against the South Korean won. In Tokyo, the dollar is trading in a range of 96.21-96.24 yen, up 0.87 yen from Wednesday's close of 95.34-95.36 yen in Tokyo. In Sydney, the Australian dollar is trading at US$0.7968-US$0.7970, down from Wednesday's close of US$0.7984-US$0.7987.

In Seoul, the South Korean won is trading at 1,282.9 won to the U.S. dollar, up 0.6 won from Wednesday's close. In Wellington, the New Zealand dollar is buying US$0.6403, little changed from its level in late trades Wednesday.

The Japanese stock market is trading higher on Thursday after U.S. stocks closed mostly higher overnight following the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would keep interest rates unchanged. Investors were encouraged by the U.S. central bank's acknowledgment that it noted some improvement in the economy.

In mid-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 114.22 points or 1.19% to 9,704.54 and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues is adding 6.86 points or 0.76% to 909.32.

The Japanese market ended in positive territory on Wednesday, led by a rise in commodity prices. Trading was relatively less as investors preferred to adopt a wait-and-watch approach ahead of the FOMC meeting in the U.S. later in the day . The Nikkei 225 Average rose 40.71 points or 0.43 percent to close at 9,590.32 and the Topix index closed up 0.77 points or 0.1 percent at 902.46.

In the banking sector, shares of Shinsei Bank and Aozora banks are up more than 7% each after Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported that the banks have reached a basis agreement to merge by the end of 2010. Mitsubishi UFJ, Resona Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are trading higher in a range of 0.25%-0.85%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is up more than 1%.

Tech stocks are trading higher after Oracle Corp.'s fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations. Advantest is up more than 1%, Tokyo Electron is surging 4% and Kyocera is adding 1%. Advantest will keep cash on hand at about the current level of 130 billion yen to prepare for potential acquisitions or entry into new business areas, according to the Nikkei business daily.

Among export-oriented stocks, Canon is up almost 1% and Komatsu as well as Sharp are up more than 2% each. Mitsubishi Electric plans to build plants in the U.S. and in Europe to assemble solar power generation systems using solar panels shipped from Japan, the Nikkei business daily said. Shares of the company are up more than 6%.

Nikon is up almost 4% after Belgian equipment maker Metris said Wednesday that Nikon launched its Euro 5.50 per share buyout bid for the company. Nippon Steel Corp is up more than 1% despite ratings agency Standard & Poor's cutting the outlook for the company's long-term corporate credit rating to negative from stable due to a significant decline in steel demand.

Among auto stocks, Honda, Nissan and Toyota are trading higher in a range of 1%-2%, while Mazda is gaining more than 2%. In the oil sector, Inpex is up almost 1%, while Nippon Oil and Showa Shell are trading lower. Among trading houses, Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Itochu are gaining in a range of 2%-4%.

The Australian stock market is trading higher on Thursday, tracking the overnight cues from Wall Street, where U.S. stocks closed mostly higher after the Federal Reserve, as expected, announced it would keep interest rates unchanged.

In early morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 18.30 points or 0.48% to 3,825.30 and the broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 19.60 points or 0.52% to 3,821.80.

On Wednesday, the Australian market closed modestly higher ahead of the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary outlook meeting. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index advanced 10.1 points or 0.3% to close at 3,807.0, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 9.2 points or 0.24% to settle at 3,802.2.

On the economic front, the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index, or LEI, for Australia increased in April by 0.7%, recording an increase for the third straight month. The April index reading was 113.5. The private sector research group noted that strength in building approvals, money supply and stock prices offset a decline in rural goods. The board's Coincident Index, which measures current economic activity, increased 0.1% in April. The April Coincident Index reading was 112.3. The board also said new disposable income data led to downward revisions in the Coincident Index for the previous five months.

The major banks are trading mixed. Australia and NZ Banking Group is up 0.06% and Westpac is adding 0.36%, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.41% and National Australia is losing 0.42%.

Resource stocks are trading higher on firmer base metal prices. Mining giant BHP Billiton is advancing 0.92% and rival Rio Tinto is gaining 2.04%. Among gold miners, Lihir Gold is advancing 1.40% and Newcrest Mining is adding 1.76%.

In the oil sector, Oil Search is down 0.19%, while Santos is adding 0.79% and Woodside Petroleum is gaining 0.56%. In the retail sector, Woolworths is adding 0.04% and David Jones is up 1.00%. Wesfarmers is down 0.32%.

The South Korean stock market is trading higher on Thursday, led by banks, on renewed buying by foreign investors after the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision on Wednesday to keep interest rates unchanged erased concerns over a monetary tightening.

In late morning trades, the benchmark Korea Composite Price Index, or KOSPI, is currently gaining 21.58 points or 1.58% to 1,384.87.

The South Korean market ended in positive territory on Wednesday, led by technology stocks and bargain hunting amid recovery hopes. The KOSPI ended at 1,364, representing a gain of 3.25 points, or 0.25%.

In the tech sector, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 1%. Hynix Semiconductor, LG Display LCD and LG Electronics are trading higher in a range of 0.10%-2%.

In the banking space, Korea Exchange Bank, Woori Finance, Shinhan Financial and KB Financial are gaining in a range of 0.5%-2.5%. KB Financial rose after news that it expects to complete a $2 billion rights offer by early September.

Automakers are trading mixed. Hyundai Motor is trading slightly higher, while Kia Motors is trading lower and Ssangyong Motor is unchanged. Steel maker Hyundai Steel and Posco are up more than 1% each.

Telecom issue SK Telecom is unchanged, while KT Corp. is trading slightly lower. Oil issue SK Holdings is down 0.5%, while S-Oil and energy stock KEPCO are up more than 1% each.

The New Zealand stock market opened modestly higher on Thursday after receiving a mixed lead from Wall Street, where most of the U.S. averages, except the Dow, closed higher after Federal Reserve announced its decision to hold interest rates steady.

In early trades, the benchmark NZX 50 index is up by 11.75 points or 0.09% to 2,751.56, while the broader NZX All Capital index is gaining 12.64 points or 0.45% to 2,816.23.

The New Zealand stock market drifted lower in a lightly traded session on Wednesday. The NZX-50 index closed down 22.2 points or 0.8% at 2,739.8. Market turnover was reported by the New Zealand Stock Exchange at 35.1 million shares valued at NZ$80.2 million. Declining issues outnumbered advancing stocks 48 to 25, with 33 issues remaining unchanged.

In economic news, Statistics New Zealand will release its data on the country's current account balance and current account deficit-GDP ratio for the 1st quarter.

In early trades on Thursday, market leader Telecom is adding 0.39%, second ranked Contact Energy is down 0.52% and Fletcher Building, the third best stock, is advancing 1.10%.

In the retail sector, Hallenstein Glasson, jewelry retailer Michael Hill International, Pumpkin Patch and Warehouse remained unchanged. In the energy sector, Vector is gaining 1.00% and TrustPower remained unchanged.

Among the dual-listed issues, AMP, Australia and NZ Banking Corp, APN News & Media, Lion Nathan, Telstra and Westpac Bank remained unchanged.

Among other notable stocks, Infratil is down 0.57%, Mainfreight is losing 0.93% and Nuplex is declining 0.66%, while Sky City is up 1.91% and Sky Network Television is adding 0.70%. Methven and Steel & Tube Holdings remained unchanged. Fisher & Paykel Appliances is down 1.52% and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is up 0.35%.

Other Asian markets:

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is gaining 178 points or 1.00% to 18,070, Singapore's Straits Times Index is up 4 points or 0.20% to 2,283, China's Shanghai Composite Index is adding 6 points or 0.19% to 2928 and Taiwan's Weighted Index is advancing 59 points or 0.93% to 6,439. Also, Malaysia's KLSE Composite is up 13 points or 1.28% to 1,058 and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is adding 23 points or 1.15% to 2,019.

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