Mixed trading is being witnessed among the markets across Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday, as markets pared much of the early gains. The markets have opened strongly, taking cues from the U.S. markets, where all the major indices showed strength and ended in positive territory despite weaker economic data and gloomy outlook for the near future. Optimism about the revival of the global economy, expectations from the G20 meeting and technical factors contributed to positive closing in Wall Street. Speculation that the U.S Government will allow the major automakers to fail has lifted the automotive stocks as the Asian manufacturers stand to gain from the inevitable fall out of U.S automakers GM and Chrysler.
On Tuesday, the Dow closed up 86.90 points or 1.2% at 7,609, the Nasdaq closed up 26.79 points or 1.8% at 1,529 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.34 points or 1.3% at 798.
In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $1.24 at $48.42 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $49.66 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday, up $1.25 a barrel, after hitting an intraday high of $50.00 and a low of $47.77, amid weaker U.S. dollar, as traders await the weekly inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index pared early gains and is currently trading at 8,273, up 163.85 points, or 2.02%, and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues is advancing 15.84 points to 789.
On the economic front, the Bank of Japan's Tankan Survey revealed on Wednesday that the sentiment among Japan's large manufacturers plummeted at a record rate in the first quarter of 2009, posting a score of -58. That was worse than analyst expectations for -55 following a score of -24 in the previous quarter. It was also worse than the previous record low of -57 in 1975. The large manufacturers' outlook for the June quarter came in at -51. The non-manufacturing index saw a score of -31, worse than forecasts for a -25 after posting -9 in the previous quarter. The outlook for the June quarter came in at -30. Large companies also saw capital expenditure down an annual 6.6% for the fiscal year, while pretax profit is expected to fall 19.7%.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, is gaining 3.78%, Mizuho Financial is adding 1.05% and Sumitomo Mitsui is advancing 2.35%. Resona Holdings is adding 0.46%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is up 3.43%.
Exporters are trading higher on the back of a weaker yen. Canon is advancing 1.24%, Sony is up 3.10% and Sharp is adding 0.13%. Among automakers, Toyota is gaining 1.28% and Honda is rising 4.32%.
Honda said Tuesday that it will cut North American production further, reduce the pay of its salaried employees in North America and force its hourly workers to take unpaid leave, as vehicle sales continue to plunge. The company will reduce output by 62,000 units over three months starting May 1, 2009.
Electronics maker Panasonic, which is in the process of acquiring Sanyo Electric, has asked the three financial institutions that own a majority of Sanyo's shares to retain some of their holdings, the Nikkei business daily reported. Shares of Panasonic are up 1.12%, while those of Sanyo Electric are down 2.74%.
Oil-related stocks are trading higher following the overnight gain in crude oil price. Inpex is adding 1.32%, Nippon Oil is gaining 1.85% and Showa Shell is advancing 1.90%. The Nikkei business daily reported that Showa Shell has entered into talks to buy a plasma panel plant from Hitachi with an aim to turn it into a solar cell plant. Shares of Hitachi eased 0.38%.
Meanwhile, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is rising 2.96%, Sumitomo Corp. is adding 1.19% and Itochu is advancing 1.88%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is losing 13.8 points to 3,568 and broader All Ordinaries index is down 14.7 points to 3,518.
On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics' or ABS data showed that retail sales in Australia dropped 2.0% in February on month, marking the largest monthly decline since July 2000.
Further, the ABS also released building approvals data that showed Australian residential housing approvals were up 7.8% on month in February at 10,050, but down 25.5% on year.
Additionally, the Australian Industry Group / PricewaterhouseCoopers Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index came in at 33.4 in March, up from 31.7 in February.
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations' data showed that Australia's skilled job vacancies in March were down 10.8% on month, posting an index score of 40.7 points, down 6.5% on month. On an annual basis, job vacancies were down 57.9%.
Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.89%, while ANZ Banking Group is edging up 0.19%, and National Australia Bank is adding 0.70%. Westpac is slipping 0.26%, and investment bank Macquarie Group is dropping 2.96%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is losing 0.53%, and Rio Tinto is falling 1.31%. Gold miners were mixed, after gold closed higher on Tuesday. Lihir Gold is adding 0.91%, and Sino Gold is gaining 1.32%, while Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.37%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside is falling 1.23%, and Oil Search is losing 0.95%, while Santos is rising 2.37%.
In the retail sector, David Jones is dropping 2.50%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers is falling 2.07%, and Woolworths is edging down 0.12%.
Fortescue Metals Group Ltd is rising 3.14% after the Australian government approved an A$438 million Chinese investment in the company.
Australia's second-largest steel-maker OneSteel Ltd tumbled 6.2% after announcing plans to cut further output at two of its facilities in fiscal 2009.
Debt-laden miner OZ Minerals Ltd dropped 7.2% after it approved a revised rescue bid of A$1.74 billion from China's Minmetals, on resuming trade having been on suspension since last week. It also said that the company is continuing with the sale process for its Martabe gold and silver project in Indonesia.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened Wednesday's session at 13,746, higher than its previous close at 13,576, but pared all of its early gains on profit taking and is presently trading at 13,464 down 1.03% or 139.45 points.
BOC HongKong is advancing 9.21%, following the news that the parent company Bank of China will increase its stake in the subsidiary over the next 12 months through market purchases. Mixed trend is being witnessed among other banks, with HSBC Holdings gaining 1.17%, and Hang Seng Bank edging down 0.38%
Oil and gas producer, CNOOC, is gaining 1.95%. The company reported flat growth in the second half of last year, as lower margins offset lower crude oil prices during the period. Aluminum Corp. of China, or CHALCO, is moving up 4.94%.
China Unicom is down more than 7% after the second largest mobile carrier by subscribers reported higher profit for the year 2008.
China-related stocks are trading mixed. While China Mercantile Holdings is gaining 5.16%, China Resources is losing 0.83%.
The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea opened Tuesday's session higher at 1,214, compared to its previous of 1,206, and is currently trading at 1,228, up 22.15 points, or 1.84%. Automakers and financials are leading the gains in the market.
The local currency, the Won, opened higher against the US greenback at 1370 Won per US$, down from 1,383.50 Won, and is currently quoted at 1,360 Won per US$.
Manufacturers' sentiment rose for the second quarter of 2009 rose amid expectations that the economy will stabilize in the country. According to a report released by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, business survey index (BSI) for manufacturing companies rose to 95 for the second quarter, compared to 61 in the first quarter.
In another report, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy revealed that trade surplus for March 2009 reached a record US$4.6 billion, attributing sharp decline in imports and increase in number of ships exported as the primary reason. The report noted that exports declined 21.2% to US$28.3 billion, and imports were down 36% to $23.7 billion
Among the automakers, Hyundai Motor is gaining 6.31%, Kia Motor is advancing 5.04% and Ssangyong Motor is edging up 0.42%
Financials are also trading higher. KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is moving up 4.40%, Shinhan Financial is advancing 3.66% and Woori Finance is gaining 4.99%.
Shipbuilders are trading mixed. Hyundai Heavy Industries is gaining 1.79%, and Samsung Heavy Industries is advancing 1.56%. However, Daewoo Shipping is down 0.47%
Oil-related stocks are moving to the upside. SK Holdings is gaining 2.79% and S-Oil is rising 1.60%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is moving up 1.23%.
Technology stocks are trading mixed. While LG Electronics is advancing 3.50%, and LG Display is gaining 1.96%, Hynix Semiconductor is losing 3.64%.
Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index is gaining 1.12% or 26.49 points at 2,400, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is advancing 0.92%, or 13.16 points at 1,447, and Taiwan's Weighted Index is rising 67.81 points, or 1.30% at 5,278. Singapore's Strait Times Index is presently losing 1.95 points, or 0.11% at 1,698.
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