RTTNews - Asian markets are exhibiting some weakness on Friday, with participants treading cautiously ahead of the corporate earnings reporting season. Some of the markets in the region started off on a strong note on the back of some positive economic data from Wall Street, but have pared their gains subsequently, with traders preferring to take some profits ahead of the weekend.

The Australian market opened higher and gained further ground in morning trades before it shed gains on profit taking. Energy, materials and healthcare stocks surged higher and bank stocks exhibited a mixed trend this morning.

However, with profit taking wiping of their gains, a few healthcare stocks have drifted down into the red now. Financials are also exhibiting some weakness. Resource-related stocks are also off their highs.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200, which had moved up to 3,792 earlier in the day, is currently trading at 3,771, up 7.7 points over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 8.3 points at 3,769.7.

In corporate news, WorleyParsons Ltd has been appointed as project management study contractor to the more than A$3 billion Oakajee port and rail project in Western Australia's midwest region. The value of the contract to Australia's largest engineering company was not revealed in a joint statement by the project developer, Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR), and iron ore miner Murchison Metals Ltd, which owns 50 per cent of OPR. Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi owns the other 50 per cent. The WorleyParsons stock is up with a modest gain.

Packager Amcor Ltd says it is continuing discussions with Rio Tinto Ltd about the partial acquisition of Rio's Alcan packaging business. Responding to a query from the Australian Securities Exchange about a rise in its share price this week, Amcor said its negotiations with Rio Tinto were continuing.

Amcor's share price rose from a closing A$4.67 on July 3 to a high of A$5.21 during trade on Thursday. This morning, the stock is down by nearly a per cent at A$5.12.

The Japanese market, which got off to a rousing start this morning with stocks across various sectors gaining ground on strong buying support, was down in the red with a small loss at the end of the morning session.

The Nikkei, which had surged to 9,370 in early trading, was down 3.60 points or 0.04% at 9,287.46 when the morning session ended.

Shares of ABC Mart Inc. moved higher after the company said its net profit rose 8% year on year to 3.5 billion yen in the March-May quarter.

Despite a 32% year-on-year rise in the company's pretax profit to 1.1 billion yen in the April-June quarter, shares of Kakaku.com Inc. fell into the red this morning after a fairly bright start.

Chemicals were mostly trading higher. Shares of synthetic fiber maker Kuraray Co. rose sharply this morning on reports the group's operating profit will likely decrease 60% on the year to slightly more than 9 billion yen for the six months through September, better than a previous estimate of a 66% drop to 8 billion yen. The stock is currently up by over 4% on its previous closing price.

Fujifilm Holdings, Kao Corp, Nippon Kayaku, Sumitomo Chemicals and Nippon Soda were the other prominent gainers in the chemicals space.

Steel stocks JFE Holdings and Pacific Metals moved up. In the non-ferrous metals space, SUMCO, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Toho Zinc, Fujikura and Mitsui Mining and Smelting edged higher.

In the automobile space, Toyota Motor, Suzuki Motor and Nissan Motor posted gains. Mazda Motor and Isuzu Motors struggled and Hino Motors and Honda Motor were also seen exhibiting weakness.

Bank stocks were mostly trading in positive territory with modest gains. Machinery and electric machinery stocks edged up. Shares of rubber products manufacturers and glass ceramics makers were trading firm. Pharmaceuticals, communications and electric power stocks exhibited weakness.

Shares of electronics major Sharp Corp. rose sharply in the morning following an announcement by the firm that it will raise output capacity at its Kameyama No. 2 LCD panel plant in Mie Prefecture by 10% in August. The planned capacity boost comes amid growing demand for LCD TVs in China and Japan. The stock, however, has come off its earlier high and is currently trading just 1% up over its previous close.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 93 yen level early Friday in Tokyo, slightly up from its levels overnight in New York. The yen is currently trading at 92.90 to the U.S. dollar.

In South Korea, the market slipped into the red after trading firm for about an hour this morning, with investors turning cautious and indulging in some selling ahead of the weekend.

The KOSPI, which rose to 1,436.50 in early trading, is currently down in the red at 14,17, down nearly 14 points or 0.98% from its previous close.

Technology stocks, which had some bright sessions recently, are down in the red with sharp losses. Automobile stocks are also seen exhibiting some weakness.

Among bank stocks, Woori Finance, Shinhan Financial and KB Financial are trading in positive territory, while Korea Exchange Bank is down in the red with a sharp loss.

Oil stocks are trading mixed. Shipbuilders Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding are trading weak and not much buying is seen in the steel space as well.

Among other markets in the region, Shanghai, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia are exhibiting weakness. Taiwan is trading modestly higher.

On Wall Street, stocks moved in a choppy fashion on Thursday and ended with modest gains on the back of some encouraging employment data. A report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims fell to 565,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 617,000. Economists had been expecting a more modest decrease to 603,000 from the 614,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Traders largely shrugged off May wholesale trade data from the Commerce Department, which showed that wholesale inventories fell by less than economists had been expecting. The report also showed a modest increase in wholesale sales.

The Dow ended up by 4.76 points or 0.1% at 8,183, the Nasdaq rose by 5.38 points or 0.3% to 1,753 and the S&P 500 finished up by 3.12 points or 0.4% at 883.

Major European markets all closed on the upside, with the German DAX Index closing up by 1.3%, while the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both rose by 0.5%.

Oil finished mildly higher amid choppy trading on Thursday as the weekly employment report sparked hopes the economy could improve. Light sweet crude for August climbed to US$60.41 per barrel, up 27 cents on the session. Earlier, oil touched a multi-month low of US$59.25.

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