RTTNews - After opening on a firm note on strong cues from Wall Street, Asian markets are exhibiting a mixed trend now with some of them drifting lower on profit taking.

The Australian market rose sharply on strong buying in energy stocks, but pared most of the early gains shortly thereafter and slipped into the red with investors trimming positions in financials, healthcare and materials stocks. However, on fairly good support at lower levels, financials have wiped off some of their losses subsequently and with a few other frontline stocks from other sectors too garnering modest support, the market has edged up into positive territory once again.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which had slipped to 3,989 after an earlier surge to 4,027, is currently trading at 4,007, up 11 points or 0.3% over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 9.2 points or 0.2% at 3,997.

Avoca Resources Ltd has increased its shareholding in its reluctant takeover target Dioro Exploration NL. Gold miner Dioro has rejected an all-scrip offer from Avoca and earlier this week said it was in talks with other potential buyers. Avoca, which owns the Higginsville gold project in Western Australia, said on Friday it had increased its stake in Dioro to 17.13%, from 14.95%. After an initial surge this morning, the Avoca Resources stock is currently trading flat.

Macquarie Countrywide Trust says it has agreed to sell its 75% interest in a portfolio of 86 properties in the United States for US$1.3 billion ($A1.62 billion). The price reflected a capitalization rate of 9.1% based on the Trust's estimated net operating income for calendar 2009, valuing the portfolio at US$1.73 billion (A$2.14 billion), Macquarie Countrywide said on Friday. It said the deal would eliminate A$1.38 billion of debt scheduled to mature in the coming years and would release around A$226 million in gross cash proceeds. The stocks is trading up nearly 12% at present.

According to a release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, export prices fell 20.6% in the June quarter, the biggest fall recorded in the exports goods price estimates in 34 years. The import price index also declined 6.4%, the biggest since 1981.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei was up 39.34 points or 0.42% at 9,383.50 at the end of the morning session. The index had earlier moved on to 9421 as stocks across various sectors surged higher in morning trades on good results from leading corporate houses after U.S. bank JP Morgan Chase came out with impressive numbers. Political uncertainty and caution ahead of the weekend resulted in some profit taking in subsequent trades.

Construction, foods and chemicals stocks were mostly trading higher. Steel, non-ferrous metals, machinery and electric machinery stocks were also trading firm.

Pharmaceuticals stocks exhibited a mixed trend. Among bank stocks, Sumitomo Trust and Banking, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Bank of Yokohama and Chiba Bank were trading modestly higher.

Shares of Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. are drifting down by around 3% on then likelihood of the company reporting a group operating loss of about 5 billion yen for the three months ended June 30, following its 7.9 billion yen in red ink for the January-March quarter. Although demand for excavators picked up in China and other emerging nations, it was not enough to offset the slump in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. The company forecasts that the global market for hydraulic excavators will shrink 20% this fiscal year in volume terms. Its own sales volume dropped by nearly half in the U.S. and Europe, and fell sharply in Japan as well.

Nissan Motor was up by around 2% on reports the company will begin selling hybrids such as minivans based on its own technology in Japan in 2011, in a bid to compete with such segment pioneers as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Toyota Motor declined after trading notably higher while Honda Motor was up modestly at the end of the morning session.

Shares of electrical machinery maker Elpida Memory Inc. edged higher before falling into the red. The buoyancy was on the back of a report that the price of 1-gigabit DRAM chips for large-lot customers topped one dollar for the first time in seven and a half months in the latter part of June, hovering around 1.06 dollars.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was at the upper 93-yen level early Friday in Tokyo, slightly down from its levels overnight in New York. In early trading today, the dollar fetched 93.68-73 yen compared with Thursday's closing quotes of 93.88-98 yen in New York and 93.76-79 yen in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 93.66 to the U.S. dollar.

The South Korean market drifted lower on profit taking after trading firm earlier in the day and is currently up with a modest gain. The benchmark index KOSPI, which moved on to 1,446 in early trading, is currently up with a gain of around 2 points at 1,435.

Bank stocks are trading weak. Technology stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend. In the automobile space, Kia Motor and Ssangyong Motors are trading weak, while Hyundai Motor is trading modestly higher. Airliners Korea Airlines and Asiana Airlines are exhibiting weakness.

Among steel majors, POSCO is down with a modest loss, while Hyundai Steel is up sharply with a 2.3% gain. Energy stocks are trading mixed. Telecommunications are up modestly.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries are up with modest gains while Daewoo Shipbuilding is trading flat. Bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean is down by as much as 3% after recent sharp gains.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong and Taiwan are up with notable gains. Singapore and Indonesia are trading modestly higher, while New Zealand and Shanghai are down with modest losses.

On Thursday, Wall Street ended on a firm note, extending a recent upward move despite largely mixed economic and earnings news. On the economic front, a report from the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits continued to decrease in the week ended July 11th, with initial jobless claims falling by more than economists had been expecting. The report from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that showed a greater-than-expected fall in the index of manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region did hurt sentiment to an extent, but data on homebuilder confidence turned out to be a positive for the market.

Strong results from JP Morgan Chase kept the mood upbeat. The Dow closed up by 95.61 points or 1.1% at 8,712, the Nasdaq surged 22.13 points or 1.2% to 1,885 and the S&P 500 moved up by 8.06 points or 0.9% to 941.

Major European markets closed on the upside with moderate margins. The German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index moved up by 0.6% and 0.9% respectively while U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index posted a gain of 0.4%.

Crude oil turned to the upside after some early weakness Thursday and finished above the US$62 a barrel mark. A better-than-expected employment report improved expectations for energy demand. Light sweet crude oil for August settlement finished at US$62.05 per barrel, up 51 cents on the session. Earlier, oil had hit as low as US$60.29.

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