The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading higher on Thursday morning, tracking the U.S. markets, where all the indices advanced for the second day in succession on unexpected positive economic data. A smaller-than-expected decline in construction spending for February, an increase in the index of pending home sales for February and higher-than-expected manufacturing sector index of the ISM for March, more than offset the bigger-than-expected decline in non-farm private employment for March.
The positive economic reports encouraged traders by suggesting that the worst of the economic conditions may be behind us. The data also strengthened expectations that the government initiatives are starting to bear fruit.
On Wednesday, the Dow closed up 153 points or 2.01% at 7,762, the Nasdaq gained 23 points or 1.51% to 1,552, and the S&P 500 added 13 points or 1.66% to finish at 811.
In Asian trading, crude oil is up moderately in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $48.39 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday, down $1.27 a barrel, after hitting an intraday high of $48.96 and a low of $47.26, after an Energy Information Administration data revealed a build in crude oil stockpiles from last week. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased for a 23rd time in 27 weeks by 2.84 million barrels to 359.4 million barrels in the week ended March 27, 2009. US crude oil stockpiles rose to a 15-year high.
In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is trading at 8,603, up 3.01% or 251.58 points, and the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues is advancing 25.70 points, or 3.24% to 820.
On the economic front, the Bank of Japan said Thursday that the monetary base in Japan was up 6.9% on year in March, standing at 94.46 trillion yen. That's up from 93.65 trillion yen in February, which saw a 6.4% annual increase. Seasonally adjusted, the monetary base was up 5.6% on month at 94.3 trillion yen. Through the first three months of 2009, the monetary base was up an annual 5.7% and a seasonally adjusted 17.2% compared to the previous quarter
The Ministry of Finance said that Japanese investors bought a net 663.1 billion yen in foreign bonds and also purchased a net 246.4 billion yen in foreign stocks for the week ending March 28. Meanwhile, foreigners sold a net 189.7 billion yen in Japanese stocks and also sold a net 719.8 billion yen in foreign bonds.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, is gaining 5.05%, Mizuho Financial is advancing 5.24%, Sumitomo Mitsui is rising 4.84% and Resona Holdings is adding 2.84%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is up 6.65%.
Exporters are also trading higher on hopes of a revival in the U.S. economy. Canon is advancing 3.28%, Sony is surging up 8.71% and Sharp is adding 4.02%. Among automakers, Toyota is gaining 5.81% and Honda is rising 8.91%.
Oil stocks are trading mixed. While Inpex is adding 0.99%, Nippon Oil is losing 0.98% and Showa Shell is down 0.54%. However, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is rising 3.08%, Sumitomo Corp. is gaining 3.93% and Itochu is up 4.44%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is gaining 105.5 points to 3,685, and the broader All Ordinaries index is up 98.70 points to 3,626.
On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that Australia posted a better-than-expected trade surplus of A$2.11 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in February. Exports jumped 4% from the previous month, while imports were down 1% on month.
Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up 1.18%, ANZ Banking Group is gaining 1.70%, and National Australia Bank is adding 2.46%. Westpac is rising 0.98%, and investment bank Macquarie Group is surging 4.85%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is adding 1.34%, and Rio Tinto is gaining 3.16%. Gold miners are advancing, after gold closed modestly higher for a second straight session on Wednesday. Lihir Gold is adding 2.09%, Sino Gold is climbing 7.17%, and Newcrest Mining is gaining 3.14%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside is edging up 0.16%, and Oil Search is up 0.38%, while Santos is losing 1.16%.
In the retail sector, David Jones is gaining 2.49%, and Woolworths is edging up 0.12%, while Coles' owner Wesfarmers is losing 0.73%.
The benchmark KOSPI Index is currently trading at 1,271, up 37.43 points, or 3.03%.
A report released by the National Statistics Office on Wednesday revealed that South Korea's consumer prices grew at a slower pace in March compared to the same period last year. The consumer price index rose 3.9% during March, lower than the 4.1% rise reported in the same period last year. In comparison to February, the prices rose 0.7%, the report revealed.
Almost all the stocks across the sectors are posting gains. Among the automakers, Hyundai Motor is gaining 4.13%, Kia Motor is advancing 3.24% and Ssangyong Motor is rising 8.80%
Financials are also trading higher. KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is moving up 3.77%, Shinhan Financial is advancing 3.88% and Woori Finance is gaining 3.25%.
Shipbuilders are also advancing. Hyundai Heavy Industries is gaining 1.49%, Samsung Heavy Industries is advancing 1.52%, and Daewoo Shipping is adding 3.76%
Oil-related stocks are moving to the upside. SK Holdings is gaining 4.02% and S-Oil is rising 1.21%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is moving up 1.75%.
Among technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is rising 5.31%, LG Electronics is advancing 2.53%, and LG Display is gaining 2.43%.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index opened at 13,963, compared to previous close at 13,519, and is presently trading at 14,141, up 4.59% or 621.03 points.
Forty of the forty-two index components are advancing on positive sentiment that the global economy might be on a recovery path and the worst is over.
Banking stocks are leading the gains. HSBC Holdings is gaining 7.12%, Bank of Communications is advancing 5.88% and Bank of East Asia is adding 3.29%. Other banking stocks are also trading in positive territory.
Insurance stocks are also advancing. Ping An is gaining 5.18% and China Life is advancing 3.53%.
Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corp. of China, or CHALCO, is up 4.65%, CNOOC is gaining 3.30% and Petro China is advancing 4.42%.
Property stocks are also moving higher. The major gainers in the property space include New World Development, Swire Pacific, MTR Corp., Shopping Property, Sino Land and Hang Lung Property.
China-related stocks are also gaining. 3.94%, China Mercantile Holdings is advancing 3.94%, China Overseas is gaining 5.61% and China Overseas is trading at 1.38%.
Among the other markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index is gaining 26.45 points, or 1.10% to 2,434, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is advancing 0.99% of 14.41 points to 1,476, Singapore's Strait Times Index is moving up 3.05% or 51.95 points to 1,754, and Taiwan's Weighted Index is adding 1.93% or 102.65 points to 5,417.
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