RTTNews - The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading mixed on Wednesday following the modest gains overnight on Wall Street. The markets in Japan, Australia, South Korea and China are trading lower on profit taking following the recent strong gains. Meanwhile, the markets in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia are trading in positive territory, but in a narrow range.

U.S. stocks ended Tuesday's trading on a positive note amid some late session buying interest. The major averages all finished in positive territory by moderate margins, building on Monday's strong gains that helped the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indices cross key levels. The Commerce Department's report of an increase in consumer spending and the National Association of Realtors' report of a rise in pending home sales helped buoy the markets.

The Dow closed up by 33.63 points or 0.4% at 9,320.19, the Nasdaq advanced by 2.70 points or 0.1% to 2,011.31 and the S&P 500 rose by 3.02 points or 0.3% to 1,005.65.

Crude oil is trading higher on Wednesday in early Asian trades, up $0.39 or 0.55% to US$71.81 per barrel. On Tuesday, crude oil closed lower as traders took profits following a dramatic recent run-up. Crude oil dropped to US$71.42 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down US$0.16 on the session.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was trading stronger against the Japanese yen and the South Korean won on Wednesday, while it was trading weaker against the Australian dollar.

In mid-morning trades Tokyo, the dollar was quoted in a range of 95.26-95.28 yen, up 0.32 yen from Tuesday's close of 94.94-94.95 yen in Tokyo. In Sydney the Australian dollar was trading at US$0.8443-US$0.8449, up from Tuesday's close of US$0.8432-US$0.8455.

In Seoul, the South Korean won was trading at 1,221.1 won to the U.S. dollar in early trades, down 3.1 won from Tuesday's close of 1218.0 won. In Wellington, the New Zealand dollar was buying US$0.6720 in early trades Wednesday, compared to US$0.6677 at close on Tuesday.

The Japanese stock market opened higher on Wednesday following the modest gains overnight on Wall Street. However, the market has pared its gains subsequently, and is trading in negative territory on profit taking.

In mid-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 17.37 points or 0.17% to 10,357.64. The index has gained 31 percent in the past six months.

The Japanese market closed higher on Tuesday, hitting a 10-month high as the Topix index posted its 13th straight session of gains, the longest winning streak since March 1988. The Nikkei 225 index closed higher by 22.54 points or 0.22% at 10,375.01.

The markets have little to digest in terms of economic news on Wednesday.

Among automakers, Toyota is down more than 1% after the company slipped to its third straight quarterly loss. The company had however forecast a narrower loss for the full year. Honda and Mazda are losing almost 1% each and Suzuki is down 3%. Isuzu, Japan's largest maker of light-duty trucks, is losing almost 6%.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is unchanged, while Mizuho Financial is down 1.30%, Sumitomo Mitsui is losing 0.72% and Resona Holdings is declining 1.08%. Investment bank Nomura Holdings is down almost 1%.

In the oil sector, Nippon Oil is adding 0.19%, while Showa Shell is losing 1.3% and Nippon Mining Holdings is down 0.2%. Trading company Mitsui & Co is up almost 3% and rival Mitsubishi Corp is adding 0.3%.

Chipmaker Elpida on Tuesday reported a group net loss of 44.5 billion yen for the April-June quarter, the smallest loss in three quarters. The loss was however wider than the loss of 13.8 billion yen for the year-ago period. The company's stock is down almost 4%.

Among exporters, Canon is down almost 0.5%, while Sony is adding 0.19%. Sony is expected to announce that it will begin selling later in August the cheapest digital book reader for the United States, taking rival Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle digital reader head-on in the small but fast-growing market for electronic readers.

Toshiba plans to set up a joint venture in China to make small and midsize LCDs for mobile phones in the first half of next year, the Nikkei business daily said on Wednesday. The company's shares are down almost 3%.

The Australian stock market slipped into negative territory on Wednesday after opening higher following the modest gains overnight on Wall Street.

In early trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is currently down 5.70 points or 0.13% to 4,303.60 and the broader All Ordinaries Index is losing 5.20 points or 0.12% to 4,308.70.

The Australian stock market closed at a nine-month high on Tuesday, a day when the Reserve Bank, as expected, left interest rates steady. The central bank also signaled that the round of interest rate reductions was likely at an end by offering a relatively upbeat outlook on the Australian economy. The S&P/ASX200 index closed with a gain of 45.9 points or 1.1% at 4,309.3 and the All Ordinaries index added 43.4 points or 1.0% to 4,313.9.

On the economic front, activity in Australia's service sector reversed course and declined in July, according to survey results posted Wednesday by the Australian Industry Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The group's Performance of Service Index, or PSI, declined 61 points in July to a reading of 44.1. Readings below 50.0 indicate contraction of activity in the sector. In June, the PSI rose into the positive with a reading of 50.2.

Later in the day, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is slated to release international trade data for June.
Mining stock BHP Billiton is adding 0.33%, drawing strength from higher copper prices, while Rio Tinto is losing 0.37%. Among gold miners, Lihir Gold is up 2.20% and Newcrest is gaining 1.28%.

In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank is down 0.34%, ANZ Bank is losing 1.23%, National Bank is declining 0.39% and Westpac is edging down 0.05%.

Oil stocks are trading mixed. Woodside is down 0.25% and Santos is adding 0.48%, while Oil Search is unchanged.

In the retail sector, David Jones reported a 0.6% increase in sales for the fourth quarter and said it continues to look forward to an 8%-12% rise in profit for the full year. Sales for the three months ended July 25 totaled A$512.3 million, up from A$509.1 million in the year-ago period. On a like-for-like basis, sales were down 1.2% in the quarter. However, the company stock is down more than 5%. Meanwhile, shares of Harvey Norman are down almost 3%, Woolworths is losing 0.04% and Wesfarmers is down almost 1%.

Insurer AXA Asia Pacific almost tripled its profit for the first half of the year and said its long-term growth prospects remain strong, mainly because of its investment earnings in Asia. Net profit for the six months to June 30 rose 187% to A$270.4 million from A$94.2 million in the year-ago period. The company's stock is up almost 3%.

The South Korean stock market is trading lower on Wednesday on profit taking, ending a four-day winning streak. Tech, auto and steel stocks are trading in negative territory, while banking stocks are gaining.

In late morning trades, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or KOSPI, is down 0.64 points or 0.04% to 1,565.73.

The South Korean market finished barely higher on Tuesday, as profit taking in the afternoon erased solid gains from the morning session. For the day, the KOSPI gained 1.39 points or 0.01% to close at 1,566.37. The gain was enough to extend the market's winning streak to four sessions, gathering more than 40 points or 2.5% on its way to a fresh 11-month closing high.

In the auto sector, Hyundai Motor is currently losing 0.5% and affiliate Kia Motors is down 0.6%, while Ssangyong Motor is gaining more than 5%. Among steel makers, Hyundai Steel is down almost 1% and Posco is losing 1%.

In the tech space, market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is down 0.14%, LG Display LCD is losing more than 1% and LG Electronics is declining 0.3%. However, Hynix Semiconductor is up 1.40%.

Banking stocks are trading higher. Woori Finance is up 1%, Shinhan Financial is gaining 2% and KB Financial, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, is advancing 1.3%.

Korea Exchange Bank is up almost 0.5% after the company reported a profit for the second quarter, compared to a loss in the preceding first quarter. The bank said that net income for the April-June quarter was 238.2 billion won, a turnaround from a loss of 74.8 billion won three months earlier. Sales for the quarter surged 36.7% year-on-year to 4.66 trillion won, while operating profit declined 10.7% to 280.1 billion won.

Telecom stocks are trading mixed. SK Telecom is adding 0.28%, while KT Corp. is losing 0.7%. Oil issue SK Holdings is losing 0.44%, while S-Oil is adding 0.17% and energy stock KEPCO is gaining 0.6%.

The New Zealand stock market opened marginally higher on Wednesday, following a modestly positive overnight lead from Wall Street where major U.S. averages closed slightly higher on reports that showed improvements in U.S. consumer spending and pending home sales.

The benchmark NZX 50 index was up 8.35 points or 0.27% to 3,101.15 shortly after the market opened for the day, while the broader NZX All Capital index was adding 3.90 points or 0.12% to 3,145.93.

The New Zealand market closed higher on Tuesday. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 44.95 points or 1.45% to 3,092.8. The New Zealand Stock Exchange reported trading volume of 59.3 million shares carrying a cumulative value of NZ$122.4 million.

In the early trading on Wednesday, market leader Telecom remained unchanged, while second ranked Contact Energy surged 1.68% and Fletcher Building, the third best stock, collected 0.96%.

In the retail sector, Warehouse gained 0.25%, while Hallenstein Glasson, jewelry retailer Michael Hill International and Pumpkin Patch remained unchanged. Among energy stocks, TrustPower slipped 0.64% and Vector added 0.50%.

Among the dual-listed issues, AMP, Australia and NZ Banking Corp, APN News & Media, Lion Nathan, Telstra and Westpac Bank remained unchanged.

Among other notable stocks, Infratil advanced 0.55%, Methven gained 0.69%, Nuplex added 0.51%, Sky City gained 0.58 % and Sky Network Television collected 0.22%. Mainfreight and Steel & Tube Holdings remained unchanged. Meanwhile, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare lost 0.31%, while While Fisher & Paykel Appliances remained unchanged.

Other Asian markets:

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index is gaining 140 points or 0.67% to 20,936, Taiwan's Weighted Index is up 32 points or 0.46% to 6,988, Singapore's Straits Times index is adding 11 points or 0.40% to 2,659 and Malaysia's KLSE Composite is up 3 points to 1,183. China's Shanghai Composite Index is down 23 points or 0.66% to 3449 and Indonesia's Jakarta composite index is down 11 points or 0.45% to 2,350.

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