RTTNews - Asian markets are trading firm on Wednesday with investors going in for some bargain hunting after a modest setback in the previous session. Higher commodity and oil prices, and some better-than-expected economic news are also seen aiding the rally in the region.

Cues from Wall Street are not any significantly positive. However, with no negative news to warrant a slide, investors appear keen on lapping up a few front line stocks from resources, banking, technology and automobile sectors.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is trading at 4,008, up 73 points over Tuesday's close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by 68 points at 4,002.

Energy and materials stocks are calling the shots in the Australian market today. Healthcare, financials and consumer staples stocks are also seen attracting attention.

Top-notch materials stocks BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and New Crest Mining are trading firm. Energy stocks Santos, Origin Energy and Woodside Petroleum are up with notable gains.

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation are up by 1.5%-2%. Diversified financial stock Macquarie Group is up nearly 3% over its previous close.

In corporate news, Hutchison and Vodafone merged their subsidiaries, Hutchison 3G Australia Pty Ltd and Vodafone Australia, to create a joint venture called Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), in which they have equal shares. The transaction gives Hutchison the right to convert all its convertible preference shares, which the company is doing now, Sydney-based Hutchison said in a statement on Wednesday. The combined network will be the third-biggest in the country with revenue of about A$4 billion from six million customers and market share of about 27 per cent.

In other news, copper and zinc miner Kagara announced a capital raising of up to A$262 million, while a Chinese firm is set to take a 19.9 per cent stake in the company. Kagara said it intends to raise a minimum of A$150 million and a maximum of A$262 million through the issue of new shares to existing and new shareholders. If Kagara raises more than A$170 million in the offer, half of the extra funds must be used to retire bank debt.

In economic news, consumer confidence improved sharply in June as Australians took heart from better-than-expected growth figures for the first quarter of 2009. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment rose 12.7 per cent to 100.1 points on a seasonally-adjusted basis. The index rose above the 100-point level for the first time in 17 months, the point that divides optimists and pessimists.

According to a release from the Australian Bureau of statistics, demand for mortgages has grown for a seventh straight month, with first-time home buyers making up a record proportion of loans secured in April. Housing finance deals for owner-occupiers rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.9 per cent in April to 60,395 loans.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei is up 138.41 points or 1.41% at 9,925.31, as stocks surged higher on renewed hopes about a U.S. economic recovery following automaker Chrysler LLC obtaining court clearance to sell assets.

Stocks across various sectors are moving up in the Japanese market today with securities, non-ferrous metals and automobile stocks leading the gains.

McDonald's Holdings Co. said its same-store sales for May rose 3.1% from a year earlier, marking the thirteenth straight month of increase. When including newly opened restaurants, the figure increased 4.9%, a new monthly record for such sales. The stock, which moved up sharply this morning, has given up its gains and is currently trading flat.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries shares have shot up, rising nearly 11%, to hit a year-to-date high of 239 yen, on reports that the firm and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have developed a nickel-hydrogen battery that recharges in less than 10 seconds. Kawasaki Heavy hopes to commercialize the battery for use in trains and buses within five years.

In economic news, Japanese core machinery orders fell a seasonally adjusted 5.4% in April from the previous month, the Cabinet Office said Wednesday. The market had forecast a slight increase from the previous month.

According to data released by the Bank of Japan, the corporate goods price index slipped 5.4% on the year in May.

In the currency market, the yen is trading at 97.60 to the U.S. dollar.

In South Korea, stock prices are up sharply with participants going on a buying spree across the board. Automobile, technology, oil and bank stocks are seen trading with strong gains.

The Korean benchmark KOSPI is up 28.7 points or 2.1% at 1,400.5 at present.

Other stock markets in the Asia-Pacific region are also trading firm today. The Hong Kong market's Hang Seng index is up by over 1.5%, the Taiwan Weighted Average Index is up 1.12% and Singapore's Straits Times Index is up by a modest 0.44%. The key indices of Shanghai, Indonesia and New Zealand markets are also currently trading higher. Most of the markets in the region had ended moderately lower on Tuesday due largely to profit taking after recent sharp rallies.

On Wall Street, the Dow ended flat after a choppy ride on Tuesday, losing 1.43 points to 8,763.06. The Nasdaq closed up 17.73 points at 1860.13 and the S&P 500 index edged up 3.29 points to 942.43.

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced that 10 of the largest U.S. financial institutions that borrowed money from the Treasury are planning on paying back their loans. President Barack Obama praised the move, noting that the government has turned a profit from the first round of repayments. He also offered cautious optimism that the financial system is stabilizing.

Major European markets closed mixed for the session. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index drifted lower by less than a tenth of a percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.1 percent, whereas the French CAC 40 Index finished up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil closed above US$70 per barrel on Tuesday for the first time this year as the Energy Information Administration boosted its short-term energy outlook. Light sweet crude for July delivery climbed to US$70.01 per barrel, up US$1.92 on the session, its best close since November 4. Crude touched as high as US$70.18, challenging the multi-month intraday high of US$70.32 reached last week.

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