The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region witnessed mixed trading on Thursday. Having opened strongly higher in early trading on positive cues from Wall Street, the markets retreated after a government report revealed that the Chinese economy expanded at a slower pace of 6.1% during the first quarter. While markets in Japan, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan managed to end in positive territory, the markets in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore reversed the early gains and ended in negative territory.

On Wednesday, a late-day rally on Wall Street, led by financials, helped the major indices end in positive territory after the Federal Reserve signaled that that the contraction in the economy is slowing down. The Nasdaq ended the session up 1.08 points or 0.1% at 1,627, while the Dow jumped 109.44 points or 1.4% to 8,030 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.56 points or 1.3% at 852.

In Asian trading, crude oil ended at $49.90 a barrel, up $0.65 in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $0.16 at $49.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday after an Energy Information Administration data revealed commercial crude oil inventories increased for a 25th time in 29 weeks by 5.6 million barrels to 366.7 million barrels in the week ended April 10, 2009.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index added 12.30 points, or 0.14%, to close at 8,755, while the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues slipped 0.38% or 3.21 points to close at 832.

On the economic front, Japan's Ministry of Finance reported Thursday that overseas residents purchased a net 114.5 billion yen in Japan stocks for the week of April 5 through 11, their second straight week as net purchasers. However, foreigners dumped a net 169.3 billion yen in Japanese bonds and notes for the week, after having been net buyers the week before. Meanwhile, Japanese residents remained net buyers of foreign-based stocks, purchasing a net 7.9 billion yen worth. They also acquired a net 818.3 billion yen in foreign bonds and notes, after having been sellers of a revised net 2.113 trillion yen worth in the previous week.

Banking stocks declined the most, limiting the gains. Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, lost 3.07%, Sumitomo Mitsui declined 1.84% and Resona Holdings edged down 0.08%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings fell 2.51%. However, Mizuho Financial ended unchanged from the previous close.

Among exporters, Canon lost 1.49%, and Sharp slipped 0.77%. However, Sony Corp. remained unchanged. Automaker Toyota declined 2.37% and Honda Motor slipped 0.92%.

Oil-related stocks ended mixed. While Inpex declined 2.35%, Nippon Oil gained 0.77% and Showa Shell advanced 1.56%. Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. gained 1.43%, Sumitomo Corp. edged up 0.11% and Itochu added 0.35%.

Drug maker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.'s consolidated operating profit for the year ended March 31, 2009 is expected to have fallen 31%, which is an improvement over its earlier projections, the Nikkei business daily said. The company's shares edged up 0.28%.

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 28.2 points, or 0.75%, to close at 3,776, and the broader All Ordinaries index added 31.7 points, or 0.86% to end at 3,726.

Banking stocks ended mixed. Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 1.30% and National Australia Bank added 0.73%. However, ANZ Banking Group declined 1.31%, Westpac Banking lost 1.59% and investment bank Macquarie Group slipped 0.48%.

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton declined 0.98%, while Rio Tinto advanced 1.22%. Among the Gold miners, Lihir Gold lost 1.34% and Newcrest Mining fell 2.62%. However, Sino Gold bucked the trend and gained 0.93%.

Oil-related stocks ended mixed. While Woodside Petroleum slipped 0.21%, Oil Search edged up 0.38%, and Santos gained 0.72%.

In the retail sector, David Jones fell 0.91% and Harvey Norman lost 0.71%. However, Coles' owner Wesfarmers advanced 3.32%, and Woolworths edged up 0.35%.

Telecommunications stocks advanced. Telstra gained 1.55% and Singapore Telecommunications rose 1.68%.

Media stocks also ended in positive territory. Consolidated Media added 0.50% and News Corp edged up 0.17%. Fairfax remained unchanged from the previous close.

In South Korea, the benchmark KOSPI Index ended the trading session with modest gain of 3.63 points, or 0.27% at 1,337.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Trade and Finance stated that exports from the country is expected to shrink 16% during the year 2009 to $354.5 billion from $422 billion reported for last year. Attributing a protracted global slowdown as the primary reason, the Ministry noted that imports into the country might also shrink 21% from last year.

A report released by the National Statistical Office yesterday revealed the unemployment rate increased to 4% during March from 3.9% recorded in February, as more companies are trimming their existing work force on fears of a worsening economic slowdown.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics ended down 0.68%. Among the other technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor declined 1.49% and LG Display edged down 0.32%, but LG Electronics advanced 0.97%.

Banking stocks acted as drags on the market. KB Financial Group declined 1.33%, Shinhan Financial fell 1.68% and Woori Finance lost 5.32%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries gained 2.87%, Samsung Heavy Industries advanced 0.96% and Daewoo Shipping edged up 0.40%.

In the auto space, Hyundai Motor fell 1.97%, Kia Motor lost 2.90%, and Ssangyong Motor is moved down 1.23%.

Among oil-related stocks, S-Oil remained unchanged from the previous close and SK Holdings advanced 2.56%.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index reversed all of its early gains and ended the day lower at 15,583, down 86.63 points, or 0.55%.

China-related stocks led the declines in the market. China Resources lost 1.91%, China Overseas fell 1.34%, China Mercantile Holdings declined 4.42%, and China Shenhua shed 4.36%.

Mixed trading is being witnessed among resource stocks. While Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, slipped 0.91%, CNOOC lost 3.20% and PetroChina fell 2.29%.

Among banks, HSBC Holdings edged up 0.45% but Hang Seng Bank slipped 0.17%. Bank of Communications fell 2.02%, Bank of China lost 2.05% and BOC Hongkong declined 1.48%.

Among insurance stocks, Ping An fell 3.50% and China Life edged down 0.36%.

Among the other major markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index ended lower by 0.08% or 1.92 points, at 2,534, and Singapore's Strait Times slipped 14.24 points, or 0.75% to 1,892. Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index added 1.97% or 31.42 points to 1,625 and Taiwan's Weighted Index gained 121.98 points, or 2.08%, to 5,997.

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