RTTNews - Asian stock markets are in a sea of red on Monday with participants pressing some heavy sales, choosing to take profits after recent strong rallies. Some of the markets, including Japan, opened on a buoyant note but have faltered subsequently due to fairly heavy selling across the board.

The landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan and the better-than-expected industrial output data initially buoyed stocks in Tokyo and sent the benchmark Nikkei 225 index skyrocketing by around 235 points to an eleven-month high this morning. However, the strong surge of the yen against the U.S. dollar prompted some heavy selling and the Nikkei was down in the red at 10,497.19 with a loss of 36.95 points, or 0.35%, at the end of the morning session.

Automobile stocks, which had rallied sharply in early trading, were mostly down in the red when the morning session ended. Steel, machinery, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and pharmaceuticals stocks also were trading weak.

Pigeon Corp. shares rose as much as 230 yen to hit a year-to-date high of 3,980 yen this morning, as investors bought in expectation of improved earnings. On Friday, the maker of baby-care goods upgraded its group operating profit outlook for the year ending January, stoking buying interest. The stock is currently trading up by over 3%.

On the economic front, Japan's industrial output rose 1.9% from June to a seasonally adjusted 82.4 in July, recording the fifth straight month of increase, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Monday. The figure exceeded the average market prediction of a 1.6% rise. The shipment index climbed 2.3% to 83.6 and the inventory gauge fell 0.2% to 95.1, sending the inventory to shipment index down 4.1% to 123.5. Looking ahead, the government forecast that the headline index will rise 2.4% in August, and 3.2% in September.

According to another report from the same ministry, domestic retail sales fell 2.5% year on year to 11.279 trillion yen in July, marking the eleventh straight month of decline. Sales at large outlets dropped 7% to 1.736 trillion yen. Same-store sales at large outlets fell 8.4%, with department store sales down 11.8% and supermarket sales down 6%. Convenience store sales fell 5.1% to 715.6 billion yen, marking the first decline since the statistics began to be compiled. Same-store sales dropped 7.5%.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 93 yen level this morning, down from its late Friday quotes in New York, after Japan's main opposition party swept to a historic victory in Sunday's general election.

In early trading, the dollar fetched 93.37-93.42 yen against Friday's close of 93.56-93.66 yen in New York and 93.92-93.93 yen in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 92.63 to the U.S. dollar.

In the Australian market, financial and information technology stocks led the charge this morning, while energy, materials and healthcare stocks were seen lagging behind. However, the market started drifting lower after the first hour, slipped into the red by noon and is currently seen trading modestly lower.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which had surged to 4,537.2 in morning trades, is down by 15.6 points, or 0.3%, at 4,474. The broader All Ordinaries index is down with a loss of 13.9 points or 0.3%, at 4,482.

ANZ Banking Group Ltd said its cash profit for the 10 months to July is tracking broadly in line with the prior year, as the bank's bad debt growth slowed in the third quarter. The bank's strong revenue trends had continued, driven largely by the performance of the institutional division, Melbourne-based ANZ said in a statement today. The bank stock is currently trading up by nearly 4%.

Among other key bank stocks, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are trading firm with notable gains, while Westpac has drifted down into the red after after an trading firm and is down by about 0.8%. Diversified financial stock Macquarie Group is up by about 4%.

Among miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are down with notable losses. Newcrest Mining is up by nearly 3%. Bluescope Steel, Fortescue Metals and Orica are also trading in positive territory.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are exhibiting weakness, while Origin Energy and Santos are trading in positive territory with modest gains.

Paper merchant PaperlinX Ltd has reported a A$798.2 million annual loss and decided against paying a final dividend after being hit by deteriorating global paper demand. The result compares to a profit of A$72.2 million in 2007/08. Despite weak results, the stock is up by over 8% this morning.

Felix Resources Ltd has reported a 42% rise in annual net profit and says it is in good shape for the current financial year. The Brisbane-based coal miner and explorer said net profit for the 12 months to June 30 was A$267.6 million, up from A$188.5 million in the previous year. Felix said attributable sales tonnage was up 3% on the previous year.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher today amid mixed reaction from investors to positive U.S. consumer confidence data. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8415/17, up slightly from Friday's close of US$0.8406/08. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8387 to the U.S. dollar.

After opening flat, the Korean market is drifting down sharply on Monday with traders indulging in some heavy selling in bank, oil and shipbuilding stocks.

The Korean benchmark index KOSPI is currently trading at 1,583, down by around 25 points, or 1.55%, from its previous close.

Bank stocks are down in the red with sharp losses. Woori Finance, Shinhan Financial and KB Financial are trading lower by 2.5%-3%, while Korea Exchange Bank is down with a loss of about 1.5%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding are down by 2% and 2.4% respectively, while Samsung Heavy Industries is trading lower by 1.8%. Bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean, faring slightly better, is trading with a modest 0.8% loss.

Among automobile stocks, Kia Motor is up by 3.4%, while Ssangyong Motor and Hyundai Motor are exhibiting weakness. In the technology space, Hynix Semiconductor is trading firm with a sharp 2.4% gain. Samsung Electronics and LG Display LCD are trading flat, while LG Electronics is down by 1.3%.

Oil stocks SK Holdings and S-Oil are trading weak with notable losses. KEPCO is down by over 1%. In the steel space, Hyundai Steel is trading up by 4.4% even as POSCO is declining by about 2%. Airlines and telecommunications stocks are trading lower.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai is down sharply, with its benchmark index Shanghai Composite Average tumbling by over 5%. The Hang Seng index of the Hong Kong market is trading lower by over 2%. Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan are also trading sharply lower. The New Zealand market is trading flat. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly higher on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in a lackluster performance on Friday after an initial upward move and eventually ended the session on a mixed note.

Traders largely shrugged off the day's economic data, including a report from Reuters and the University of Michigan that showed their final consumer sentiment index reading for August came in at 65.7 compared to the mid-month reading of 63.2.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said that personal income was nearly unchanged in July following a revised decrease of 1.1% in June. Economists had expected income to increase by 0.1% compared to the 1.3% drop originally reported for the previous month.

The Dow ended lower by 36.43 points, or 0.4%, at 9,544.20, the Nasdaq closed up by 1.04 points, or 0.1%, at 2,028.77 and the S&P 500 drifted down by 2.05 points, or 0.2%, to 1,028.93.

Major European markets also moved higher over the course of trading on Friday, with the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index advancing 1.2% and 0.9%, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index closed up 0.8%.

Oil prices closed modestly higher on Friday, ending the session well off the highs for the session but still extending the upward move seen in the previous session. Despite the continued increase, oil remains well off the ten-month high set earlier in the week.

After surging to US$73.52 a barrel during the session, crude for October delivery gave up some gains and closed up US$0.24 at US$72.74 a barrel.

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