RTTNews - Asian markets closed mixed on Thursday, as investors weighed the impact of higher oil prices and commodities on inflation and an economic recovery. Profit taking after recent gains and negative cues from Wall Street overnight also affected investor sentiment.

Crude oil futures finished above $71 a barrel on Wednesday, its highest level in almost eight months after data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a decline in crude oil and gasoline inventories last week. Prices have gained almost 5% since last Friday's settlement, and more than doubled since last winter's low $30 per barrel. In Asian trading on Thursday, crude oil rose above $72 a barrel on optimism about a global economic recovery after data released by China's customs department showed the China's net crude purchases increased to 16.62 million metric tons or 3.9 million barrels a day.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.27% overnight, weighed down by fears of inflation and the slow pace of economic recovery. Waning buying interest and disappointing results from a ten-year note auction also contributed to the weakness. The Nasdaq Composite moved down 0.38% and the S&P 500 index eased 0.35%. In economic news, a report from the Commerce Department showed that the U.S. trade deficit for the month of April came in modestly wider than in March, as the value of exports fell by more than the value of imports.

After briefly passing above the 10,000-mark for the first time in eight months, the benchmark for the Japanese market, the Nikkei 225 index, closed at 9,981, down 10 points or a modest 0.1%. Meanwhile, the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 4 points or 0.39% to 941, its highest closing since November 5. While stocks of iron and steel, precision machinery and securities companies ended with notable gains, insurance, pulp and paper, and mining stocks led the decliners.

Steelmaker Kobe Steel and Nippon Steel jumped over 5% each and JFE Holdings advanced 3.72% on hopes of improved demand in China and other emerging markets.

Among banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group edged up 0.16%, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rallied 4.19% and Mizuho Financial Group advanced 3.07%. Insurer Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance fell 1.74% and Sompo Japan declined 2.08%,

In the technology space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron declined around 0.80% each, Fanuc fell 0.99%.Sony moved down 0.93%, but Toshiba climbed 8.17% after Nomura Securities upped its rating on the stock to 'buy' from 'neutral.'

Defensive stocks in the telecom, railways and insurance sectors such as KDDI, Softbank Corp, Tokio Marine and East Japan Railway Co. ended in the red, as investors shifted their portfolios in favor of cyclical stocks.

Digital cameras and medical devices maker Olympus Corp jumped 13.16% after Deutsche Bank AG doubled its share price estimate on the stock. Trend Micro Inc, a maker of computer anti virus software, tumbled 4.72% after Microsoft said on Wednesday that it was getting ready to unveil a free anti-virus service for personal computers.

In economic news, the gross domestic product in Japan contracted by 3.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous three months, the Cabinet Office said on Thursday in its final report. That was slightly better than the record preliminary reading of -4.0 percent, at which analysts expected GDP to hold steady. GDP saw a 3.8 percent quarterly decline in Q4 of 2008.

China's Shanghai Composite index snapped a 3-day rally to finish at 2,797, down 19 points or 0.67% amid profit taking and mixed economic reports. Decliners in the Shanghai market outnumbered gainers by 528 to 282, while 44 closed unchanged. While banking, auto and property stocks ended with notable gains, stocks of securities firms and property developers ended lower.

On the economic front, China posted a trade surplus of $13.39 billion in May, the General Administration of Customs said on Thursday, below expectations for a surplus of $14.9 billion.

Imports were $75.37 billion in May, down 25.2 percent on year. Exports came in at $88.76 billion, down an annual 26.4 percent and falling for the seventh consecutive month.

The Australian market closed at a fresh 2009 high, led by miners and energy stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed at 4,047, up 23 points 0.57% and the broader All Ordinaries index rose 31 points or 0.8% to 4,047.

Among big miners, Rio Tinto jumped 5.67%, its rival BHP Billiton rose 1.46% and Illuka Resources surged up 6.84%.

Fortescue Metals Group climbed 19.22% amid speculation of Chinese buying interest, even as the iron ore miner said it cannot explain why its shares have almost doubled since early this month. OZ Minerals was in a trading halt and BlueScope Steel gained 2.18%.

Gold miners closed mixed despite firm gold prices. While Newcrest rose 0.63%, Lihir Gold fell 1.97%, and Newmont fell 0.9%. Oil stocks also ended mixed after crude oil price surged past the $71 a barrel overnight. Woodside Petroleum edged up 0.16% and Oil Search gained 3.57%, but Santos fell 1.15%. Origin Energy advanced 2.49%, while AGL Energy ended down 1.42%.

Banking stocks closed mixed. National Australia Bank slipped 0.45%, Commonwealth Bank fell 1.37% and Westpac Banking ended down 0.25%, but ANZ edged up 0.36% and investment bank Macquarie Group advanced 1.89%.

Among retailers, Woolworths fell 1.40%, JB Hi Fi lost 1.28%.and Harvey Norman Holding slipped 0.64%, but Wesfarmers rose 0.49% and David Jones jumped 4.61%.

Westfield ended down 0.95% after it offered $1.3 billion to redevelop the retail portion of New York City's long-delayed World Trade Centre. Lend Lease Corp also fell 1.07%, but Stockland moved up 2.47%. Airline Qantas rose 2.24% and Virgin Blue gained 1.61%.

In the media sector, while News Corp fell 2.94%, Fairfax Media rose 0.39%, Seven Network surged up 6.11% and Consolidated Media advanced 3.86%.

Gaming company Crown ended down 1.30% after it wrote down the value of its 19.6 percent equity stake in Fontainebleau Resorts LLC to zero after three subsidiaries of the U.S. developer filed for bankruptcy protection.

Clothing manufacturer Pacific Brands gained 3.53% on announcing the completion of the retail component of its entitlement offer, Telstra rose 0.61% on the appointment of Paul Geason as group managing director and ports and rail operator Asciano Group advanced 3.05% on reports that it will make an announcement on asset sales, change of control or a recapitalization by the end of the financial year.

Australia's unemployment rate increased in May to 5.7 percent, according to data released Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The figure was an increase of 0.3 percent compared to the April jobless rate.

South Korea's benchmark KOSPI ended a volatile session up by 5 points or a modest 0.32% to 1,419 amid the simultaneous expiry of June futures and options contracts. Volume was at 478.3 million shares worth 6.88 trillion won and advancers outnumbered decliners by 433 to 361.

While underlying sentiment was firm on expectations of an economic recovery and earnings improvement, profit taking following sharp gains in the previous session weighed on market movement. Foreign investors bought stocks worth KRW694.6 billion on a net basis, while domestic institutions sold stocks worth KRW391.7 billion.

Steelmakers rose after Brazilian mining giant Vale agreed to cut iron ore prices and construction and engineering stocks advanced on reports about new order receipts, while airline stocks fell due to higher crude oil prices.

The New Zealand market ended modestly lower after the central bank left its official cash rate unchanged at 2.5% but left the door open to lower rates. A stronger dollar at a time of weak global growth risks delaying or even reversing the projected increase in exports, putting the sustainability of recovery at risk. the Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard warned. The benchmark NZX-50 index ended at 2,797, down 31 points or 1.11%.

Among market heavyweights, Telecom ended down 2.67%, Sky City declined 1.08% and Fletcher Building fell 2.06% but Contact energy ended up 0.53%. Nuplex rose 2.44% and Steel and Tube edged up 0.35%.

NZ Farming Systems Uruguay fell 3.92% after government data revealed that prices for New Zealand dairy exports slumped the most on record in the first quarter. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which derives nearly 80% of its revenues in U.S. dollars, fell nearly 3% and Tourism Holdings tumbled 4.08% after statistics confirmed a weak trend in guest nights in April.

ING Property Trust closed down 1.75% after the trust announced the unconditional sale of a Cavendish Drive, Manukau property to a private investor. NZ Oil & Gas edged up 0.62% on rising crude oil price, carpet maker Cavalier Corp rose 2.78%, Mainfreight gained 1.20% and Ryman Healthcare added 1.27%, while retailer Hallenstein Glasson moved down 0.81%, energy stock Vector fell 1.44% and Freightways ended down 1.33%. On the other hand, Pumpkin Patch, the Warehouse Group and TrustPower closed unchanged.

In economic news, New Zealand's seasonally adjusted performance of manufacturing index or PMI stood at 42.7 in May, down one point from April and six points from the previous year, the latest report from the Business New Zealand or BNZ showed. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 signals a contraction.

The Indian market was in a consolidation phase after a 2-day rally, as investors took profits following a massive 90% rise in the benchmark indexes since its March lows. The BSE Sensex was last trading at 15,424, down 43 points or 0.28% from its previous close.

Among the other markets in the region, while Singapore's STI Straits Times index fell 0.39%, Taiwan's TWII Weighed index rose 1.63% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended up 0.03%.

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