RTTNews - Asian markets are exhibiting a mixed trend on Thursday with participants treading a cautious path amid fresh concerns over the pace of economic recovery. The Australian market recovered after a weak start and is currently trading firm with stocks from energy and materials sectors posting sharp gains. After some initial buoyancy, which saw Japan's Nikkei 225 Index vault above the 10,000 level, the index has retreated and is currently trading lower.

Australia's benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is up 21 points at 4,045 and the broader All Ordinaries index is gaining 27 points at 4,043.

According to a release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, total employment fell by 1,700 to a seasonally adjusted 10.793 million, in May compared to market expectations for a decline of 30,000 in the month. The figure was not as bad as the market had expected. The data also showed that full-time employment decreased by 26,200 to 7.643 million in the month while part-time employment was up 24,500 to 3.150 million.

Materials stocks BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Orica and Newcrest Mining are up sharply. But the star performer today is Fortescue Metals Group, which is up by a hefty 15.5% now. The stock vaulted by nearly 20% in morning trade amid talks the company could be the focus of Chinese bid interest. The stock has been moving up almost consistently since late last week after Rio Tinto scrapped a planned tie-up with Chinalco.

The shareholders of OZ Minerals Limited are meeting today to vote on China's Minmetals' revised offer to buy most assets of OZ Minerals. The Chinese firm has increased its offer for the assets it intends to acquire from OZ Minerals by US$180 million to US$1,386 million. The OZ Minerals stocks is currently in a trading halt.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei moved past the magical 10,000 mark and hit a new 8-month high in the process. However, with the Japanese economy shrinking at a fairly sharp pace, the mood turned cautious and the benchmark was down in the red at 9,962, lower by 29.52 points or 0.3%, at the end of the morning session.

According to report from the Ministry of Finance, Japan's economy shrank less than initially reported in the first quarter of 2009. The pace of contraction, however, was still fairly severe. The country's gross domestic product fell a price-adjusted 3.8% on quarter, or 14.2% in annualized terms, revised GDP data released by the Cabinet Office showed.

That was better than the initial estimate made three weeks ago of a 4.0% quarter-over-quarter or 15.2% annualized, fall. Capital spending was revised up to an 8.9% quarterly fall from a preliminary 10.4% drop.

In Korea, stocks suffered a setback after opening higher but have bounced back from lower levels now on renewed buying in several front line counters. The Korean benchmark KOSPI, which fell to 1,408 earlier in the day, is currently up by a modest 0.6% or 8.5 points at 1,423.

Among other markets in the region, Hong Kong is seeing some listless trades today. The Hang Seng index, which rebounded into positive territory after an early setback, has drifted down again and is currently trading with a modest loss at 18,762. The markets in Indonesia, Shanghai and Taiwan are trading higher while the Singapore market is showing some weakness.

On Wall Street, the Dow closed down 24.04 points at 8,739.02 on Wednesday, weighed down by fears of inflation and the slow pace of economic recovery. The Nasdaq closed down 7.05 points at 1,853.08 and the S&P 500 eased by 3.28 points to 939.15.

Major European markets closed Wednesday's session moderately higher. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up by 0.7 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index finished up by 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil finished above US$71 per barrel at its highest level in almost eight months on Wednesday. Traders mulled Energy Information Administration data that showed a decline in crude oil and gasoline inventories last week. Light sweet crude for July delivery finished at US$71.33, up US$1.32 for the session. Prices reached as high as US$72.43 in mid-morning trading.

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