RTTNews - Asian markets are mostly trading in positive territory on Friday with investors switching over to the buying mode again following a series of encouraging economic data from the U.S. overnight. Most of the markets in the region, however, are trading off their highs now with a section of participants choosing to lighten commitments ahead of the weekend.

The Australian market opened on a rousing note, with energy, materials, bank and healthcare stocks posting strong gains on renewed buying interest. The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 shot up to 3,935 on early buoyancy, but has drifted down subsequently due to stiff resistance. Currently, the index is up 12 points at 3,904. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by a little over 10 points at 3,897.50.

Materials stocks BHP Billiton, Newcrest Mining, Orica, Lihir Gold, Fortescue Metals and Bluescope Steel moved up sharply but are mostly off their highs at present. Rio Tinto is down in the red with a sharp loss.

Bank stocks ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation are up in positive territory. Capital goods stock Leighton Holdings and diversified financials stock Macquarie Group are also up with notable gains.

WorleyParsons Limited announced that it has signed a contract with the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant Authority for a consultancy services contract to support the delivery of the first Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant. The revenue to WorleyParsons is expected to be approximately US$ 160 million over the expected 8 years of the project. The energy stock shot up by over 6% this morning and is still trading with a handsome gain. Woodside Petroleum and Santos are among the other energy stocks to have moved up today.

In another news, Trafford Resources intends to raise up to A$ 2 million to exercise 3,600,000 share options in Robust Resources Limited at 30c each, and to advance its Telephone Dam uranium discovery at Wilcherry Hill, South Australia. The company plans to raise funds by way of placement to sophisticated investors at a price of 15c per share.

In Tokyo, stock prices pared their early gains due to selling at higher levels. The Nikkei, which rose to 9,823 in early trading this morning on the back of some hectic buying in bank, chemicals, steel, non-ferrous metals and machinery stocks, is currently up by 38 points or 0.4% at 9,752.

Japan Airlines Corp. shares rebounded slightly Friday, on reports the government will guarantee about 80%, or some 60-80 billion yen, of an emergency loan to be extended by the Development Bank of Japan and others. JAL is expected to submit a restructuring plan in advance of receiving the funds.

Relo Holdings Inc. has announced that it will buy back all 900,100 shares, or 5.9% of the total outstanding, that shareholders offered via the firm's tender bid. The deal is for 830 yen per share, making for a total price tag of about 747 million yen. The tender offer ended Thursday. Relo, which provides relocation and real estate management services, had originally sought to buy back up to 1.5 million shares. The stock is trading up 1.3% at 997 yen at present.

Shares of chipmaker Elpida Memory Inc. have moved up sharply this morning. The chipmaker is all set to become the first applicant for a government program aimed at recapitalizing nonfinancial companies suffering from temporary business setbacks. The government is expected to approve the chipmaker's application. Elpida is still working out the details, but it appears to be angling for up to 40 billion yen in financial assistance. The company posted a net loss of 178.8 billion yen in the year ended March 31 as the price of its mainstay DRAM chips plunged due to an oversupply.

Chiyoda Corp. shot up by over 10% on reports that the firm and South Korea's Samsung Engineering Co. have won a contract to build an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia. The contract, worth about 100 billion yen, was offered by a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Saudi Aramco) and Total SA of France.

The Bank of Japan today released the minutes of its policy board meeting held May 21-22. Minutes of the meet showed some Bank of Japan policy board members said the timing of the termination of temporary measures to increase liquidity depends on market conditions.

Some members said that whether or not the bank would continue with various temporary measures, which were to be terminated on or after Sept. 30, should be determined based on close examination of developments in financial markets and corporate financing, the summary of meeting discussions said.

At the meeting, the BOJ upgraded its economic view for the first time since July 2006, saying that although economic conditions have been deteriorating, exports and production are beginning to level out. The board also voted to keep its policy target rate unchanged at 0.1%.

The KOSPI index of the South Korean market, which fell into the red after trading firm, is up in positive territory again. The index is currently trading 2 points up at 1,378. Earlier, after moving on to 1,389, the KOSPI had slipped to 1,374.

Automobile and bank stocks are seen trading higher in the Korean market. Technology stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend. Energy, oil and steel stocks are also trading mixed.

Telecom and airlines are trading lower. Not much buying is seen in the shipbuilding space as well.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan are trading modestly higher. The Singapore market is up sharply, with its benchmark Straits Times moving up by about 1.2%. The Indonesian market, however, is down in the red with a modest loss.

Stock markets across the Asia Pacific region had ended Thursday's trading notably lower. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed down 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished down 1.7 percent.

Aided by a series of encouraging economic reports, Wall Street rebounded after some early weakness and closed higher on Thursday with investors hoping for a somewhat swift end to the recession.

A report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve showed that the pace of contraction in the mid-Atlantic region's manufacturing slowed by much more than economists had been anticipating.

Also, a report from the Conference Board showed that its leading indicators index rose 1.2 percent in May, more than what economists had expected. Additionally, according to the Labor Department, weekly jobless showed the first drop in continuing claims since the week ended January 3rd.

The Dow closed up 58.42 points at 8,556 and the S&P 500 closed up 7.66 points at 918. The Nasdaq, which had outperformed in the previous session, was the underperformer throughout Friday's session. It ended down 0.34 points at 1,808.

Major European markets finished the day on the upside. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index closed up by 1 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched higher, finishing just above the unchanged mark.

Crude oil moved slightly higher on Thursday as some encouraging economic data boosted hopes of a speedier economic recovery. Light sweet crude settled at US$71.37, up 34 cents on the session. Prices traded as high as US$71.75 and as low as US$70.22 in a choppy session.

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