Taking cues from Wall Street, markets in the Asia-Pacific region opened on a bright note on Wednesday but a few of them have lost their way subsequently with investors turning cautious after Japan reported that its trade deficit fell into negative territory on a full-year basis for the first time in nearly three decades.
Japan posted a 725.3 billion yen trade deficit for fiscal 2008, tumbling into negative territory on a full-year basis for the first time since 1980, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Ministry of Finance. Exports plunged 16.4% year-on-year to 71.14 trillion yen, while imports declined 4.1% to 71.86 trillion yen. For March, the trade surplus nose-dived 99% on the year to 11 billion yen, with exports tumbling 45.6% to 4.18 trillion yen and imports dropping 36.7% to 4.17 trillion yen.
The Australian benchmark S&P/ASX 200, which rose to 3,702, is currently up 6 points at 3,683. The NZX 50 of the New Zealand stock market is trading with a small loss at 2,664.
The Nikkei 225 of Japan is down 1.70 points at 8,710 now. Earlier, after opening at 8778, it had moved on to 8,803. Stock markets in China and Korea are trading firm, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is down about 0.31%.
In Australia, bank stocks ANZ Bank, National Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia moved up in morning trading. AGL Energy, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum are up with sharp gains.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday that the consumer price index for the first quarter was 2.5 percent higher year-over-year versus forecasts for a 2.8 percent annual gain after the 3.7 percent jump three months earlier. Consumer prices in Australia were up 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to their level in the fourth quarter of 2008, slower than forecasts for a 0.5 percent increase after the 0.3 percent quarterly decline in the previous three months.
In the Japanese stock market, bank stocks Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui opened on a firm note but are trading off their highs at present. Steel products are doing well with JFE Holdings, Nippon Steel, Pacific Metals, Sumitomo Metal Industries and Kobe Steel trading higher.
Among those from the shipbuilding industry, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are trading higher. Among automotive stocks Hondo Motor, Suzuki Motor and Toyota Motor are trading with sharp gains. Construction stocks and insurance stocks are up with smart gains while retail and healthcare stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.
In Korea, technology stock Hynix Semiconductor is up with a sharp gain. LG Display and LG Electronics are also trading higher with impressive gains. LG Electronics Inc posted a smaller-than-expected 25 percent fall in first-quarter operating profit on Tuesday and said it expected improving sales of mobile phones and air conditioners to drive a recovery in the quarters ahead. LG, the world's No. 3 mobile phone maker, said its handset margins held up well in the three months ended March, while sales of flatscreen LCD TVs jumped by more than a third from a year ago.
Bank stocks are Woori Finance, Korea Exchange Bank and Shinhan Group are trading firm. Automobile stocks Kia Motor and Ssangyong are up with sharp gains while Hyundai Motor is trading marginally higher. Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is up marginally while Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo are trading weak.
Most of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region had tumbled on Tuesday following a big sell-off on Wall Street on Monday on renewed concerns over mounting bad loans.
However, on Tuesday, the U.S. markets ended firm with investors picking up stocks after initial hesitancy though corporate results were mixed. Stocks, particularly those from the financial sector, climbed up sharply and ended on a firm note with US Bancorp providing the trigger by announcing better-than-expected first quarter earnings. Encouraging results from Texas Instruments pushed by semiconductors.
The comments from Treasury Secretary Geithner contributed significantly to Wall Street's positive close yesterday. Geithner assured the Congressional Oversight Panel that there is enough money left in the government's $700 billion financial rescue program to stabilize the financial system and that the 'vast majority' of U.S. banks have enough capital and that the credit markets may be thawing following their deep freeze.
The Dow ended stronger by 128 points and the Nasdaq closed 36 points up. The S&P 500 ended 18 points up yesterday.
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