RTTNews - Asian markets are mostly trading weak on Thursday, with investors looking to take profits after recent rallies. Though economic data from U.S. and other parts of the globe have been fairly encouraging, a section of investors appear to believe a full recovery is still some way off. Losses are not any significantly sharp today with traders stepping in and hunting for bargains at lower levels.

After a negative start and subsequent weakness, the Australian market has rebounded well and is seen trading near the unchanged line at present with financial, property and healthcare stocks finding some solid support. Energy and materials stocks, which had declined sharply in morning trades, are off their lows on renewed buying interest.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which had drifted down to 4,424.9 earlier in the day, is currently trading at 4,456.4, up 1.9 points over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 0.1 points at 4,464.5.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank is up by over 2%, National Australia Bank is trading 1.5% up, Westpac Banking Corporation is gaining 1.4% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up by a modest 0.5%. Diversified financial stock Macquarie Group is up by over 1%.

Top miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are down by 2.6% and 0.9% respectively. Bluescope Steel, Incitec Pivot and Orica are also trading weak. Fortescue Metals is up with a modest gain, while Newcrest Mining is gaining 1.7%.

Energy stock Woodside Petroleum has bounced back into positive territory, recording a modest gain. Santos has also recovered lost ground. Oil Search and Origin Energy, however, are still trading in the red.

James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd announced late Wednesday an annual net profit of A$426.99 million, boosted by a one-off gain and plans to buy back up to 10% of its shares. ConsMedia's net profit for the year ended June 30 was skewed by a A$346.5 million gain on PBL Media after the company reduced its investment to less than 0.1% in December.

Excluding one-offs, the company's net profit fell 20% to A$83.6 million on a pro-forma basis, following lower contributions from its investments. The media stock is trading lower by 1.8%.

Shares of logistics firm Toll Holdings Ltd gained over 2% after it posted a 14% rise in full year profit and said the outlook for acquisitions was good.

Real estate trust GPT Group Ltd has posted a first-half loss of A$1.20 billion and says the outlook for Australian real estate is improving. The group said it was on track to meet guidance of A$365 million in realized operating income for 2009 even as it posted the interim loss, which compares to a loss of A$67.7 million for the prior-year first half. The stock is trading nearly a percent up over its previous close.

Private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care Ltd has forecast double-digit profit growth and expansion into Europe after posting a 15.5% rise in annual net profit. Ramsay also launched a capital raising to generate A$260 million to be used to reduce debt and position the company for future growth. Managing director Christopher Rex said the group had been researching acquisition opportunities in Europe and has its eyes on assets in one particular country.

In economic news, new private capital expenditure rose 3.3% in real terms, seasonally adjusted, in the June quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said today. The median market forecast was for a fall of 5% in the June quarter.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weaker on Thursday as comments from Chinese officials to possibly restrain investment in industries such as steel and cement hampered the commodity-driven currency. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8282/86, down 0.9% from Wednesday's close of US$0.8358/60. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8269 to the U.S. dollar.

In Tokyo, stocks drifted sharply lower this morning as investors indulged in profit taking after the previous session's strong gains. The mood is a bit cautious ahead of Sunday's House of Representatives election.

With stocks across various sectors falling sharply, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell sharply to 10,451 and was down by 168.72 points, or 1.59%, at 10,470.99 at the end of the morning session. Buoyed by rising U.S. consumer confidence and better than expected U.S. home price data, the Nikkei had ended up by 142.35 points, or 1.36%, at 19,640 on Wednesday.

Automobile stocks were mostly trading lower. Suzuki Motor, Toyota Motor and Mazda Motor lost more than a percent each. Among bank stocks, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial, Resona Holdings, Fukuoka Financial, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Bank of Yokohama were seen trading weak.

Steel and non-ferrous metals struggled. Among machinery stocks, NSK and JTEKT edged higher, while most of the other key players in the space declined. Electrical machinery stocks also traded lower.

Chubu Electric Power Co. plans to complete safety checks of the No. 3 reactor at its Hamaoka nuclear power station in Shizuoka prefecture, central Japan, around late September. The firm said the reactor was offline for planned maintenance on August 11, when a strong earthquake jolted the region and triggered an automatic shutdown at Hamaoka No. 4 and No. 5 reactors. Final safety checks on the No. 5 reactor are expected to be completed by late October. Chubu Electric earlier said it aims to complete safety checks at the No. 4 reactor in mid-September. After an early surge, the stock has drifted lower today, recording a modest loss.

According to a report from the Finance Ministry, overseas investors were net sellers of Japanese stocks to the tune of 140.2 billion yen during the week of August 16-22, marking the first net capital outflow in six weeks. Foreign investors moved to lock in profits in the face of such factors as a decline in Shanghai stocks as well as the yen's appreciation against the dollar. Purchases of Japanese stocks by these players totaled 2.78 trillion yen, while sales reached 2.92 trillion yen.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 94 yen level earlier this morning, slightly down from its late Wednesday quotes in New York. The dollar fetched 94.07-94.12 yen against 94.20-94.30 yen in New York and 94.17-94.18 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The yen is currently trading at 93.86 to the U.S. dollar.

In the South Korean market, bank stocks are seeing a sell-off today. Technology, shipbuilding and steel stocks are trading mixed.

The KOSPI, which had ended the previous session with a modest gain of 12.7 points, is currently down in the red with a loss of 6.5 points, or 0.4%, 1,607.6.

According to the data released by Bank of Korea on Wednesday, the consumer confidence index climbed to 114 in August from 109 in July, rising for the fifth straight month. The reading was the highest since the third quarter of 2002. However, the mood is cautious in the market today with a flat close on Wall Street and weakness in other markets in the Asia-Pacific region weighing in to a notable extent.

Bank stocks Korea Exchange Bank, Shinhan Financial, Woori Finance and KB Financial are trading lower by 1.2%-2.5%.

Among technology stocks, Samsung Electronics is down by 1.2% and LG Electronics is down with a modest loss. Hynix Semiconductor is trading flat, while LG Display LCD is trading modestly higher.

In the automobile space, Kia Motor is gaining over 2%, Hyundai Motor is trading modestly higher and Ssangyong Motor is trading flat. Shipbuilding and steel stocks are trading mixed. Oil stocks SK Holdings and S-Oil are trading weak. KEPCO is down by nearly 1%.

Among airliners, Korea Airlines is up by 4.5% and Asiana Airlines is trading up by 1.2%. Telecom stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong are down with notable losses. Taiwan is trading flat. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks finished Wednesday's session little changed, with the day's trading marred by choppy movement despite largely positive news on the economic front. Though data on new home sales and durable goods orders in July triggered some buying early on in the day, stocks gave up most of the gains as traders chose to take profits ahead of the weekly jobless claims report.

The Dow closed up by 4.23 points at 9,543.52, the Nasdaq gained 0.20 points to finish at 2024.43 and the S&P 500 rose by 0.12 points to 1,028.12.

Major European markets closed moderately lower on Wednesday. The French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.3%, while the German DAX index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively.

Oil prices fell on Wednesday after official data showed a surprise jump in crude inventories in the U.S., the world's biggest energy consuming nation. Light sweet crude for October delivery dropped 62 cents to US$71.43 a barrel, a day after it climbed to a 10-month intraday high of US$75.

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