The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading in negative territory on Wednesday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where investors paused for profit taking after the major indices witnessed the biggest single-day gain on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Dow closed down 115.65 points or 1.5% at 7,660, the Nasdaq closed down 37.34 points or 2.4% at 1,518 and the S&P 500 closed down 16.58 points or 2% at 806.
In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $0.72 at $53.26 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude oil for May delivery ended $0.18 higher on New York Mercantile Exchange at $53.98, after hitting an intra-day high of $54.20 and a low of $52.45.
In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is trading at 8,427, down 0.73% or 61.58 points, and the broader TOPIX Index all the First Section issues is trading flat at 812.
On the economic front, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 82.4 billion yen in February, compared to expectations for a 13.7 billion yen deficit following a 956.9 billion yen shortfall in January. Exports during February plummeted by a record 49.9% year-over- year, the report showed, while imports fell 43.0% year-over-year to 3.443 trillion yen.
Banking stocks are trading mixed. While Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, is down 0.75% and Resona Holdings is losing 1.10%, Sumitomo Mitsui is gaining 1.53% and Mizuho Financial is rising 0.43%. Shinsei Bank is declining 3.63% even after the bank stated that it is planning to raise 48.2 billion yen by issuing preferred securities in the current month as it seeks to bolster its capital base.
Exporters are declining on the back of a stronger yen. Canon is losing 0.35%, Sharp is down 1.91% and Sony is falling 3.06%. However, automakers are trading mixed. While Toyota is gaining 0.63%, Honda Motor is losing 0.65%.
Oil related stocks are trading mixed. While Inpex is losing 3.28%, Showa Shell is gaining 0.11%, and Nippon Oil is rising 0.38%. Meanwhile, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is up 0.58% and Sumitomo Corp. is adding 0.55%, while Itochu is losing 0.58%.
Electronics maker Sanyo Electric Co. warned of a 90 billion yen net loss for the year ending March 2009, hurt by a worsening global recession. This compares to its earlier forecast that it would breakeven. The company's stock is down 0.72%.
Sanyo Electric's peer Toshiba is trading unchanged. The company, facing its biggest-ever annual loss in the current year, will sell a former factory site in Japan to Nomura Real Estate Holdings for 22 billion yen by the end of March. The company noted that the sale will generate a pretax profit of 14.2 billion yen, but will not change its earnings forecast for the year to March 31.
In Sydney, the stock market pared its early losses and is currently trading higher, led by banks and oil-related stocks.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 43.60 points to 3,624 and the broader All Ordinaries Index is moving up 40.90 to 3,558.
The major banks are trading sharply higher. Australia and NZ Bank is gaining 3.16%, National Australia Bank is rising 4.64%, Westpac Bank is adding 3.03% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is advancing 3.69%. However, investment bank Macquarie Group is down 1.72%.
In the resources sector, mining conglomerates are trading mixed. While BHP Billiton is losing 1.63%, rival Rio Tinto is edging up 0.11%. Gold miners were trading mostly weak after gold closed lower for a third straight session overnight. Newcrest is down 2.39% and Lihir Gold is losing 3.04%. However, Sino Gold is adding 1.64%.
Following the modest gain in crude oil price overnight, oil stock Woodside Petroleum is adding 2.96%, Santos is surging 6.20% and Oil Search is advancing 1.10%.
Retail stocks are trading mixed. While Wesfarmers is gaining 2.58%, Harvey Norman is up 0.78% and David Jones is adding 1.36%, Woolworths is losing 0.36%.
The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea is currently trading at 1,213, down 8.36 points, as investors preferred to pause for taking profit.
Data released by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association revealed that auto exports to Eastern Europe plunged sharply by 70.7% during February 2009 to 11,216 vehicles. The head of the Korea Development Institute, Hyun Oh-seok, stated that the country's economy is presently accumulating energy and might rebound from the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has revealed that rules governing investment in domestic stock markets by the country's largest institutional investor, the National Pension Service, has been relaxed. The pension service is now allowed to invest in a range between 10% and 24% of its total assets in domestic markets, as against its previous range between 12% and 22%.
Financial stocks are trading lower. Shinhan Financial Group is down 1.65%, KB Financial, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is losing 0.65%, and Woori Finance is declining 0.405.
Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is falling 1.70%, and Daewoo Ship building is down 1.56%. However, Samsung Heavy Industries is edging up 0.19%.
Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is down 1.25%. In the technology space, Hynix Semiconductor is down 3.94%, but LG Electronics and LG Display are gaining 0.54% and 1.81% respectively.
Oil-related stocks are also trading mixed. While SK Holdings is gaining 3.23%, S-oil is falling 0.51%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened 155 points lower at 13,755, and is currently trading at 13,746, down 1.17% or 163 points.
Almost all the stocks, which witnessed a smart rally in the past few trading sessions, are trading lower on profit taking.
Among financials, HSBC Holdings is down 3.93%, Hang Seng Bank is losing 2.23%, BOC Hong Kong is declining 3.63%, Bank of East Asia is lower by 1.15%, and Bank of Communications is decreasing 1.85%. However, Bank of China is advancing 3.36%.
Insurance stocks are trading mixed. While Ping An is down 1.72%, China Life is edging up 0.19%.
In the telecom space, Hutchison Whimpoa is down 1.42%, China Mobile is losing 1.04% and Tencent is lower by 0.94%.
Resource stocks are trading weak. Aluminum Company of China, or Chalco, is down 3.35%. CNOOC is decreasing 2.94% and Petrochina is falling 0.94%.
China-related stocks are also showing weakness on profit taking. China Resources is down 0.65%, and China Overseas is falling 2.88%.
Utility stocks are trading mixed. While HK Electric is gaining 1.06%, HK & China Gas is decreasing 1.34%.
Among the other markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index is trading at 2,346, up 7.48 points, or 0.32%, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is up 9.05 points, or 0.63% at 1,446, and Taiwan's Weighted Index is advancing 1.10%, or 57.67 points, to 5,300. Singapore's Strait Times Index, however, is down 8.06 points, or 0.47%, at 1,698.
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