RTTNews - The mood in stocks markets across the Asia-Pacific region is a bit cautious on Thursday with a weak set of economic reports from the U.S. hurting sentiment to an extent. Some of the markets in the region did get off to a bright start today, but have given up most of their gains subsequently. Most markets in the region had run up so fast over the past few weeks, recording some impressive gains on rising optimism about a global economic revival. With the reporting season more or less over, investors are now waiting for fresh signals to emerge.

Riding on strong gains posted by leading miners and banks, the Australian market rose sharply this morning. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum and bank stocks Westpac Banking Corporation, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are all trading firm.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which moved on to 4,328 in late morning trading, is currently up by 35.4 points or 0.8% at 4,300. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,307, up 34.8 points or 0.8% over its previous close.

Media giant News Corporation posted a loss for the full year of US$3.4 billion, or A$4.03 billion, on writedowns and plunging advertising revenue, but says the worst of the economic downturn may have ended. News Corp said it expects operating income to increase by a high single-digit percentage rate in 2009/10, from adjusted operating income of US$3.44 billion, or A$4.08 billion, in 2008/09. The company also said it expects overall revenue to grow by four per cent in 2009/10, while advertising revenue would be flat. After a negative start, the media stock has recovered and is currently trading 0.6% up over its previous close.

Alumina Ltd's first half profit fell 86.3% and the company says it remains cautious about the outlook for aluminum demand. The company, a minority partner in Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals group, said its net profit for the six months ended June 30 was A$6 million, down from A$43.8 million in the previous corresponding half-year. Despite the sharp fall in profit, the Alumina stock is trading higher by as much as 11% now.

Bradken Ltd has posted a solid rise in annual earnings, saying trading conditions were strong in the first half, while global economic weakness hampered second half performance. The mining and engineered products provider reported net profit for the year ended June 30, 2009 of A$64.3 million, up 11% on A$58 million for the 2007/08 financial year. The stock is currently trading up by around 8.5%.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened flat amid mixed UK and U.S. economic data. In early trading today, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8403/07, almost unchanged from Wednesday's close of US$0.8402/06. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8412 to the U.S. dollar.

According to a report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today, Australia's unemployment rate was a seasonally adjusted 5.8% in July, which was lower than market expectations for a rate of 6% in the month. Now, economists feel that the jobless rate may not deteriorate to the 8.5% peak forecast by the federal government.

In the Japanese market, the Nikkei was up 94.83 points or 0.92% at 10,347 at the end of the morning session despite giving up some early gains due to profit taking.

Non-ferrous metals, machinery, steel and chemicals stocks were mostly trading higher while foods, pharmaceuticals and textiles exhibited a mixed trend. Automobile and bank stocks were also seen trading in positive territory.

Domestic sales of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid jumped 290% on the year to 27,712 units in July, giving it the top spot in the new-car sales ranking for the second straight month, shows data released Thursday by an industry body. The auto giant was trading over 2% up at the break.

Suzuki Motor Corp.'s WagonR minivehicle came in second at 18,140 units, up 5.6% on the year. Suzuki Motor was also trading higher by over 2% this morning.

Shares of telecom firm NTT Corp. are up in positive territory as the company's group operating profit for the April-June quarter shrank by less than expected margin. The margin of profit decline at NTT was smaller than that at cell phone subsidiary NTT DoCoMo Inc. The stock is up by over 2%.

McDonald's Holdings surged higher after the firm said Wednesday evening that its operating profit for the January-June term was its largest half-year figure since listing on the Jasdaq Securities Exchange. Investor sentiment was also buoyed by the firm's 1% year-on-year increase in same-store sales in July. In June, the figure dropped for the first time in 14 months, falling 2.9%. The company kept its earnings outlook for the year through December unchanged. The stock is currently up by about 2%.

According to a release by the Ministry of Finance, overseas investors were net buyers of Japanese stocks to the tune of 424.7 billion yen for the week through August 1. Purchases by these investors totaled 3,128.1 billion yen, while sales came to 2,703.5 billion yen.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 94-yen range earlier this morning, down slightly from its levels overnight in New York, where it closed at 94.91-95.01 yen. The yen is currently trading at 94.98 to the U.S. dollar.

After a weak start and a subsequent rally, the Korean market has declined sharply with investors choosing to take some profits after recent strong gains.

The KOSPI, which had surged to 1,572 earlier in the day after opening modestly lower at 1,556, is currently down by 10.5 points or 0.67% at 1,549.

Technology stocks are mostly trading lower. Hynix Semiconductor and LG Electronics are down by 2.8% and 2.7%, respectively. LG Display LCD and heavyweight Samsung Electronics are down by 0.6% and 1.7%, respectively.

Steel stocks are trading mixed. Oil stocks SK Holdings and S-Oil are up by 2.7% and 1%, respectively. KEPCO is up by 1.2%.

Bank stocks are trading in positive territory despite paring some early gains. Korea Exchange Bank is up by 2.6%, while Woori Finance, Shinhan Financial and KB Financial are trading up by 1% - 1.5%.

In the automobile space, Ssangyong Motor is up nearly 10%. Kia Motor is up 0.7% and Hyundai Motor is trading 1.3% down. Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding are trading modestly higher, while Samsung Heavy Industries is exhibiting weakness. STX Pan Ocean is trading modestly higher.

Telecom stocks SK Telecom and KT Corp are trading modestly higher. Airlines are trading mixed.

Among other markets in the region, Shanghai has declined sharply with its benchmark index Shanghai Composite drifting lower by as much as 3%. Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand and Singapore are also trading weak. The Indonesian market is trading flat. Stock markets across the region had finished Wednesday's trading markedly lower.

On Wall Street, disappointing data on the health of the service sector and the labor market generated some selling pressure and dragged the major averages down to a negative close on Wednesday.

The Dow closed down by 39.22 points or 0.4% at 9,281, the Nasdaq slipped by 18.26 points or 0.9% to 1,993 and the S&P 500 ended lower by 2.93 points or 0.3% at 1,003.

Major European markets closed lower on Wednesday, with the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index both posting losses of 0.5%, while the German DAX index drifted down by 0.2%.

Crude oil prices turned modestly higher on Wednesday as optimism over an economic revival outweighed Energy Information Administration data showing another increase in weekly supplies. Light sweet crude oil rose to US$71.97 per barrel, up 55 cents on the session. Prices had earlier dipped as low as US$69.71.

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