RTTNews - Asian markets are mostly trading lower on Thursday with investors indulging in profit taking after recent sharp gains. Weak economic data from the U.S. has also hurt sentiment and contributed to the fall to a notable extent today.

Though bargain hunting resulted in a recovery of sorts a little past noon, most of the markets have drifted down sharply once again, failing to sustain at higher levels.

Energy and materials stocks have suffered heavily in the Australian market today with weak commodity and crude oil prices dragging them down.

Energy issues Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Origin Energy as well as materials stocks BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest Mining are trading sharply lower. Bank stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend. Consumer staples are also trading lower. Healthcare and utilities stocks are seen edging higher.

On the economic front, Australia's trade balance unexpectedly fell into deficit in April as exports of coal, iron ore and wheat declined. According to the report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the nation posted a A$91 million shortfall compared with a revised A$2.3 billion surplus in March.

Also, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has reiterated that the central bank remains prepared to cut interest rates further to help secure a 'durable upswing' in the economy. He sounded confident that Australian economy is well-placed for expansion toward the end of this year, with the recovery expected to be fairly gradual and inflation most likely to decline for some time.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is down by 67 points at 3,950.20 and the broader All Ordinaries index is trading lower by 62.90 points at 3,946.40.

In Tokyo, shares of machinery, automobile, bank, real estate and trading companies are exhibiting weakness. Construction, foods and chemicals stocks are mostly trading lower. Oil, steel and non-ferrous metals are also down in the red. Pharma stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend. Insurance and communications stocks are seen attracting some buying.

Shares of foods major Ohsho Food Service Corp. shot up, briefly climbing 75 yen from Wednesday to 1,695 yen, surpassing the previous year-to-date high of 1,650 yen set on June 2. A sharp 20% jump in preliminary same-store sales for May buoyed up sentiment at the Ohsho Food Services Corp. counter today.

Automotive battery maker GS Yuasa Corp.'s stock traded up for the sixth straight day Thursday morning, hitting an all-time high for the second day in a row on expectation that demand will keep growing for its products.

Among economic news, according to the quarterly survey by the Ministry of Finance, Japanese business investment fell by 25.3% from a year earlier during the January-March period, marking the eighth straight quarter of decline. Economists closely watch the capital investment figure because the government will use it in revising the preliminary first-quarter gross domestic product data, which showed a record 15.2% contraction at an annualized pace. Corporate investment in factories and equipment account for around 15% of Japan's GDP.

The survey showed a marked 70.1% fall in pretax profits on year, marking the seventh straight quarter of decline. Meanwhile, sales fell 20.4% on year for the fifth straight quarter of decline. The Cabinet Office plans to release revised GDP data on June 11.

The benchmark Nikkei index is currently trading 39.52 points down at 9,702.15.

In the South Korean market, while technology stocks are trading higher, stocks from banking, shipbuilding and oil sectors are down sharply from their previous levels. Automobile stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

The KOSPI, which recovered lost ground a little before noon, has tumbled sharply to 1,394.76 now, posting a loss of 20.13 points or 1.42%.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand is down with a modest loss. Markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia are trading lower, with their benchmark indices trailing their last closing levels by 0.3% -2%.

On Wall Street, stocks snapped a four-day winning streak on Wednesday as traders chose to take profits on the back of some discouraging economic data. Despite some late buying, the Dow closed down 65.63 points or 0.8 percent at 8,675.24, the Nasdaq closed down 10.88 points or 0.6 percent at 1,825.92, and the S&P 500 fell 12.98 points or 1.4 percent to 931.76.

Major European markets closed notably lower. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 2.1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index closed down by 2.0 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Most of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region had finished modestly higher on Wednesday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed by 1 percent.

Oil prices dropped sharply on Wednesday amid an Energy Information Administration report that inventories were unexpectedly higher last week. A discouraging employment report also renewed demand concerns.

Light sweet crude settled at US$66.12 a barrel, down US$2.43 on the session. Prices dropped as low as US$64.95 in mid-day trading.

With more economic data to flow in and the U.S. Fed Chief to come out with his comments on financial markets and monetary policy, traders may well choose to stay cautious in today's session.

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