RTTNews - Asian markets are mostly trading lower on Monday with participants making cautious moves and indulging in stock specific activity following a decline in commodity prices. Bargain hunting at lower levels has pulled out some markets from their earlier low levels. The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which dropped down to 4037 earlier in the day, rebounded to 4060 only to falter again due to lack of support at higher levels.

Currently, the index is trading at 4,049, down 13 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down by 12 points at 4,050.

Energy and materials stocks are among the prominent losers in the Australian market. Material stocks BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Orica, Lihir Gold, Newcrest Mining and Fortescue Metals are all trading lower.

Financials are off their lows on modest buying at lower levels. Utilities, consumer staples and telecommunications stocks are seen attracting attention. Healthcare stocks are also trading well off their morning lows.

Australian ports operator Asciano Ltd plans to raise at least A$2 billion (US $1.6 billion) in a deeply discount rights offer, rejecting offers for the whole company as it seeks to cut a pile of debt. The company, which had A$4.9 billion in bank debt as at May 2009, put itself up for sale last year and was aiming to announce an outcome by end of this month. But a recent rebound in its shares encouraged it to opt for a share sale.

The one-for-one rights offer is being sold at A$1.10 a share. That would be a 40 percent discount to its last traded price. Trading in its shares was halted to undertake the placement.

In another corporate news, Atlas Iron Limited has announced that it will raise up to A$116.7 million to help fund the expansion of its Pilbara operations. The resource stock is currently trading with a hefty gain of 17%.

In Tokyo, the Japanese benchmark Nikkei is currently down by 82 points or 0.81% at 10,054.

Shares from the realty sector are doing fairly well in the Japanese market. Sumitomo Realty & Development hit a new high for the year ahead of release of new condominium sales report. Another realty stock Haseko Corp. has also hit a new high today. Real Estate Economic Institute Co. will release its report on new condominium sales in the Tokyo metropolitan area for May. The firm is expected to say that sales have turned up for the first time in one year and nine months.

NEC Electronics Corp. shares rose sharply to hit 1,012 yen Monday morning, on reports the firm's semiconductor capacity utilization rate may recover to around 50% in the April-June quarter. Despite coming off its high, the stock is trading up with a sharp gain of 2%.

Toyota Motor rallied sharply on reports that the firm will boost output capacity for the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in its Prius hybrids.The automaker is aiming to make enough batteries for 1.1 million vehicles in 2010, or 10% more than in its previous plan. In light of the impressive early demand for the new Prius, Toyota is expected to expand its hybrid lineup down the road.

The Korean market is also trading lower today with technology, bank and oil stocks posting notable losses. Not much buying is taking place in the automobile space as well. Telecom stocks are trading firm while airlines and steel stocks are exhibiting weakness.

The KOSPI, which dropped down to 1,406 after opening at 14,28, is currently trading at 1,412, down nearly 17 points from its previous close.

The Hang Seng index of the Hong Kong stock market is down 135 points or 0.72% and the Singaporean Strait Times and the Taiwanese market's Taiwan Weighted Average are trading lower by 1.1% and 2.9%, respectively.

However, the NZX 50 index of the New Zealand market is up 12 points at 2,822. The Indonesian and Shanghai markets are also trading in positive territory. While the Jakarta Composite index is trading 0.45% up, the Shanghai Composite Average is up by 0.28%.

The markets in the Asia-Pacific region had ended Friday's session largely on the upside though most of them finished well off their day's highs as profit taking wiped off a significant portion of their gains.

Stocks finished on a mixed note amid thin volumes on Wall Street on Friday with participants not reacting any positively to some economic data. While the Nasdaq closed down 3.57 points or 0.2 percent at 1,859, the Dow closed up 28.34 points or 0.3 percent at 8,799 and the S&P 500 closed up 1.32 points or 0.1 percent at 946.

Major European markets closed on the downside. The German DAX Index finished down by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.3 percent. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index also declined, finishing lower by 0.5 percent.

On Friday, crude oil finished lower despite recovering most of an early slump. Oil came under early pressure as OPEC lowered its demand forecast and moved off of a multi-month high. Light sweet crude oil finished at US$72.04, down 64 cents on the session. Oil hit as low as US$70.80 in early trading.

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