RTTNews - Asian stock markets opened mostly higher on Wednesday, with the overnight positive close on Wall Street on the back of a better-than-expected surge in consumer confidence prompting investors to go in for some selective buying. Though some of the markets in the region have given up a substantial portion of their early gains, the mood remains cautiously optimistic at present.

The Australian market got off to a bright start with financial, consumer staples and energy related stocks gaining ground on strong buying support. With most of the front line stocks still trading firm, the benchmark Australian index S&P/ASX 200 is up with a gain of 37.2 points, or 0.8%, at 4,443. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by 32.5 points or 0.7% at 4,450.

Health care provider Healthscope Ltd announced a 12.3% increase in profit for the full year and said it has launched a capital raising seeking at least A$140 million in new capital. The company posted annual profit of A$72.3 million in 2008/09, up from A$64.4 million in 2007/08.

In a statement to the stock exchange on Wednesday, Healthscope announced plans to generate fresh cash to fund future acquisitions, help pay for newly acquired pathology and medical centres and to expand hospitals. The stock is in a trading halt today.

Centro Properties Group, which nearly collapsed under its debt during the financial crisis, reported that its loss for the full year widened to A$3.54 billion as it slashed the value of its properties. Revenue almost tripled to A$2.2 billion while underlying profit declined 5.3% to A$229.2 million. The stock is currently trading down by nearly 6%.

Spreads maker and bakery goods company Goodman Fielder Ltd has posted a rise in revenue and net profit for the full year and says the outlook for the current financial year is encouraging. The trans-Tasman operator said net profit for the year ended June 30 was A$177.1 million, up from A$27.7 million in the prior corresponding period, helped by significant items. Revenue increased 6.5% over the prior financial year to A$2.85 billion. The stock is currently up by over 3%.

Seven Network Ltd says its balance sheet is strong after posting a 91.2% drop in full-year profit due to a writedown of its media assets. The company made a profit of A$12.49 million for the year to June 30, down from A$141.59 million in the previous financial year. The stock is trading modestly higher at present.

In economic new, skilled job vacancies rose 1% in August compared to the previous month, the first monthly increase since November 2007, new data showed. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations skilled vacancies index in August was 37.1 points, 55.7% lower than in August 2008.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weaker today as investor doubts about the pace of improvement in the U.S. economy muted demand for high-yielding assets. In early trading, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8355/59, down from Tuesday's close of US$0.8361/64. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8370 to the U.S. dollar.

In Tokyo, stock prices are surging higher today, with positive data from U.S. boosting confidence of an economic revival. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which opened on a firm note and had ended the morning session at 10,565, is gaining further ground as buying gathered momentum upon resumption of trading. The index is currently up by 124 points, or 1.18%, at 10,621. The index is at a fresh 10-month high now.

Chemicals and pharmaceuticals are mostly trading in positive territory. Non-ferrous metals are also trading firm. Steel stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

Investors are seen picking up machinery and electric machinery stocks as well. NEC Electronics Corp. shares are up by nearly 10% on reports that Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and NEC Corp. are close to agreeing on extending about 200 billion yen to the firm and Renesas Technology. NEC Electronics is slated to merge with Renesas, the nation's second-largest chipmaker, in April.

Among automobile stocks, Toyota Motor Corp. shares are moving higher today on an overnight rise on Wall Street and in Europe. Another positive trigger for the stock is a report that the automaker will cut output capacity to about 1 million units per year globally as early as fiscal 2009. Honda Motor, Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor are also trading firm.

Bank stocks are mostly trading in positive territory. Shares of insurance, trading companies and securities firms are also trading notably higher.

In economic news, Japan's merchandise trade surplus widened for the second straight month in July, the Ministry of Finance said today. The surplus rose 364.2% to Y380.2 billion from Y81.9 billion in the same period a year earlier. The figure was a bit lower than the Y396.9 billion surplus expected by economists. July was the sixth straight month of surplus, following June's surplus of Y508.0 billion. Exports fell by 36.5% for the tenth straight month. The figure was down 35.7% in June. Imports also declined by 40.8% for the ninth straight month, after falling 41.9% in June.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar fetched 93.89-93.94 yen in early trading today against Tuesday's close of 94.12-94.22 yen in New York and 94.31-94.32 yen in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 94.08 to the U.S. dollar.

The Korean market is trading modestly higher, with investors indulging in some selective buying on hopes of a global economic revival. Technology and shipbuilding stocks are trading higher, while bank stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark index KOSPI is currently up by 6 points, or 0.38%, at 1,607.4. The index had ended at 1,601 on Tuesday, recording a loss of 10.84 points, or 0.76% amid high volatility.

Automobile stocks Kia Motor and Hyundai Motor are trading lower by 1.8% and 2.3% respectively. In the technology space, LG Display LCD is up by 3.5%, Hynix Semiconductor is trading 1.5% up and heavyweight Samsung Electronics is up modestly.

Among oil stocks, SK Holdings is up by 2.9% and S-Oil is trading with a modest 0.7% gain. KEPCO is down by about a percent. Steel stocks Hyundai Steel and POSCO are up with modest gains.

Among bank stocks, Woori Finance and KB Financial are trading modestly higher, while Korea Exchange Bank and Shinhan Financial are trading lower.

In the shipbuilding space, Samsung Heavy Industries is up by 2.4%, Daewoo Shipbuilding is trading higher by about 2% and Hyundai Heavy Industries is up by 1%. Bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean is trading 1.4% up over its previous close.

Telecommunications and airlines stocks are also trading firm.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai is trading sharply higher, while Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore are up with modest gains. Taiwan is trading lower, with its benchmark index Taiwan Weighted Average losing around 1.2%. The Indonesian market is also exhibiting some weakness. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly lower on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks finished modestly higher on Tuesday, as the day's positive economic reports and news of Ben Bernanke's reappointment generated some upbeat sentiment. Buying interest was largely sparked by the day's economic data, with a report from the Conference Board showing that consumer confidence rebounded significantly in the month of August after seeing some deterioration in July.

The Dow closed up 30.01 points, or 0.3%, at 9,539.29, the Nasdaq closed up 6.25 points, or 0.3%, at 2,024.23 and the S&P 500 closed up 2.43 points, or 0.2%, at 1,028.00.

Major European markets ended moderately higher on Tuesday, with the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index closing up 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index climbed 0.4%.

Oil prices turned sharply lower on Tuesday as profit-takers collected on a rally to a 10-month high to US$75 per barrel. Light sweet crude for October delivery dropped to US$72.05, losing US$2.32 on the session. Earlier, oil hit US$75 for the first time since October 2008.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com