RTTNews - The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading higher on Monday, following the gains on Wall Street Friday and on prospects of an economic recovery. Resource stocks are advancing on higher commodity prices. However, gains in the markets are limited as investors are keeping a wary eye on events regarding automaker General Motors Corp., which is preparing to file for bankruptcy later in the day.

U.S. stocks saw some further upside over the course of the trading day on Friday, helped by better-than-expected economic data. A late-session rally helped the major averages to finish the month of May on a high note, further building on recent gains.

Crude oil extended gains from Friday and is currently trading at US$66.98 per barrel, up US$0.67 or 1.01% from Friday's close. Oil rallied to a six-month high on Friday and capped its biggest monthly gain in a decade. Prices are on the rise in recent weeks with hopes improving for energy demand. Light sweet crude for July delivery settled at US$66.31 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up US$1.23 on the session.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading weaker against the major Asian currencies. In early trades Tokyo, the U.S. dollar was quoted in a range of 94.82-94.87 yen, down 1.62 yen from Friday's close of 96.44-96.46 yen in Tokyo. In Seoul, the dollar was quoted at 1,253.0 won, down from Friday's close of 1,255.0 won. In Sydney, the Australian dollar was trading at US$0.8017-US$0.8019, up from Friday's close of US$0.7927-US$0.7929.

The Japanese stock market is trading higher on Monday, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index briefly touching the 9,600 level in the morning session. Banking and oil stocks are trading higher.

In mid-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 90.46 points or 0.95% to 9,612.96 and the broader Topix Index of all First Section issues is adding 8.50 points or 0.95% to 906.41.

The Japanese market closed higher on Friday, buoyed by better-than-expected industrial output data raised hopes that export revival might help the country come out of recession. The Nikkei 225 index closed at 9522, representing a gain of 71.11 points, or 0.75%, while the Topix Index edged up 2.32 points, or 0.26%, to close at 898.

Banking stocks are mostly trading higher. Mitsubishi UFJ is advancing 1.67%, Mizuho Financial is adding 1.32% and Resona Holdings is up 0.42%, while Sumitomo Mitsui is unchanged. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is gaining 1.12%.

Among automakers, Honda is down 0.91%, Toyota is losing 0.52% and Suzuki is declining 0.94%. Among exporters, Canon is down 1.27%, while Sharp is up 0.83% and Sony is adding 1.20%.

In the oil sector, Inpex is up 4.02%, Nippon Oil Corp. is rising 2.41% and Showa Shell is adding 1.49%. Trading house Itochu is up 3.63%, Marubeni is gaining 5.80% and Sojitz is up 5.26%.

Shipping stocks are trading higher after the Baltic Dry Index rose to an eight-month high on Friday. Nippon Yusen is up 4.61%, Kawasaki Kisen is gaining 6.5% and Mitsui OSK is advancing 4.29%.

Shares of ITX Corp. were bid-only. The company said Friday that it plans to acquire the mobile phone sales divisions of Panasonic Telecom and Sony's subsidiary Sony Marketing Japan Inc.

Shares in Sumitomo Metal Mining are up 5.71% and Mitsui Mining & Smelting are gaining 8.04%. The companies announced Friday that they have reached a basic agreement to integrate their copper and brass operations under a new entity in April.

Apartment developer Joint Corp. filed for creditor protection with the Tokyo District on Friday. The company's shares were untraded Monday. Meanwhile, Orix, the holder of a 39% stake in Joint Corp., said it may book a loss on the investment of 10.7 billion yen that it made in Joint and related firms. The company's shares are down 1.67%.

The South Korean market pared initial losses and is currently trading higher, as prospects of an economic recovery overshadowed North Korean nuclear risks. Banking stocks are trading higher.

In late morning trades, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or KOSPI is adding 4.27 points or 0.31% to 1,400.16.

The South Korean market ended in positive territory on Friday amid volatile trading, as foreign institutional investors picked up select stocks. The KOSPI closed trading at 1,396, up 3.72 points, or 0.27%.

On the economic front, South Korea posted a trade balance of $5.15 billion in May, the Customs Service said on Monday. That was sharply lower than analyst expectations for a surplus of $6.9 billion after a surplus of $5.8 billion in April. Imports plummeted 40.4% on year to $23.07 billion, versus expectations for a 38.3% decline following the 35.6% annual contraction in the previous month. Exports dropped 28.2% on year to $28.22 billion, in line with analyst forecasts for a 28.1% decline after the 19.6% fall a month earlier.

In the tech sector, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is declining 1.25%, Hynix Semiconductor is losing 1.55% and LG Display LCD is down 3.38%, while LG Electronics is advancing 1.67%.

In the banking space, Woori Finance is gaining 2.71%, Korea Exchange Bank is gaining 0.76% and KB Financial, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is up 2.62%.

Steel maker Posco is losing 1.31% and Hyundai Steel is down 0.83%. Among automakers, Hyundai Motor is advancing 2.84% and affiliate Kia Motors is adding 0.84%, while Ssangyong Motor is down 3.41%.

Oil issue SK Holdings is adding 0.92% and S-Oil is losing 1.56%, while energy stock Kepco is adding 0.53%. In the telecom sector, SK Telecom is losing 2.27%, while KT Corp. is gaining 5.29%.

The Australian market is trading higher on Monday, tracking the gains on Wall Street Friday and higher commodity prices.

In mid-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 16.30 points or 0.43% to 3,834.40 and the All Ordinaries Index is adding 16.50 points or 0.43% to 3,829.80.

The Australian market closed higher on Friday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index ended at 3,818, with a gain of 62 points or 1.65% and the All Ordinaries Index closed at 3,813, with a gain of 59.40 points or 1.58%.

In economic news on Monday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases business indicators for the March quarter and retail trade data for April. Also, the index gauging the performance of Australian manufacturing in May, provided by the Australian Industry Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers will be released, in addition to the TD-Melbourne Institute Inflation Gauge for June.

Other economic data due include the Housing Industry Association new-home sales report for April and the Reserve Bank of Australia index of commodity prices for April.

In Monday's trading, mining stocks are trading higher. BHP Billion is up 1.56% and Rio Tinto is advancing 1.92%.

Gold miners are trading mixed despite higher gold prices. Lihir Gold is declining 0.31% and Sino Gold is down 1.23%, while Newcrest is adding 1.40%. Gold posted its highest close in more than three months on Friday as a weaker U.S. dollar boosted the metal's hedge appeal. June gold finished the session at US$978.80 per ounce, up US$17.30 for the session.

Banking stocks are mostly trading weak. ANZ Bank is easing 0.31%, National Bank is losing 0.23% and Westpac is down 0.85%. Commonwealth Bank is adding 0.28%.

In the oil sector, Oil Search is advancing 1.10%, while Santos and Woodside are adding 0.21% each. Woodside said it is looking to use the Port of Broome in Western Australia as a service hub for its browse Basin liquefied natural gas development.

A trading halt in shares of BC Iron were turned into a suspension as the mining company continued to negotiate the details of access to Fortescue Metal's rail and port facilities in Western Australia.

Other Asian markets:

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is gaining 301 points or 1.66% to 18,472, Singapore's Straits Times Index is adding 30 points or 1.30% to 2,359, China's Shanghai Composite Index is advancing 62 points or 2.36% to 2,695, Taiwan's Weighted Index is up 65 points or 0.95% to 6,956 and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is adding 37 points or 1.92% to 1,954. The New Zealand stock market is closed for a public holiday.

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