RTTNews - The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading firm on Friday with strong overnight cues from Wall Street and hopes of an economic revival keeping investor sentiment fairly buoyant. A sharp surge in commodity and oil prices has also contributed to the bullish mood today.

With several agencies upgrading the ratings of U.S. financial majors, financial stocks in the Asia-Pacific region rose sharply in early trading today. Resources stocks are leading the charge in most of the markets.

In Australia, materials and energy stocks are on a roll. Industrials, consumer staples and utilities are also in focus. Financials have drifted lower after a decent spell in positive territory.

Among materials stocks, Rio Tinto is up by over 10% and BHP Billiton is gaining 8% following the two companies forming a joint venture covering their iron ore assets in Western Australia. The deal, the companies say, will encompass all current and future Western Australian iron ore assets and liabilities and will be owned 50-50 by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Earlier in the day, Rio Tinto scrapped its proposed partnership with Chinese state mining company Chinalco.

In other news, Norton Gold Fields Ltd has commenced development of underground operations at its Paddington open-cut gold mine near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The miner on Friday blasted a portal at the bottom of the Paddington pit, beginning the underground decline that opens up the new operations dubbed Homestead. The stock, which shot up by over 12% earlier in the day, is currently trading 8.5% up.

Shares of Fortescue Metals Group are up sharply by 15% following the company signing a deal with BC Iron Limited for a possible joint venture to develop BC Iron's Nullagine Iron Ore Project in the East Pilbara. FMG can earn a 50% interest by meeting its joint venture obligations.

The Australian benchmark S&P/ASX 200, which rose to 4,021, has eased to 3,988.20 but is still trading positive with a gain of 53.60 points. The All Ordinaries index is up 53.50 points at 3,986.

In Tokyo, financial stocks are in focus today. Oil stocks rose sharply on crude oil prices surging to a 7-month high. Automobile, machinery, pharma, steel and non-ferrous metals also surged higher.

Canon Inc. has decided to go ahead with building a new digital camera factory in Nagasaki Prefecture after all, with construction to begin next month amid a recovery in demand for digital single-lens-reflex models. The original plan called for breaking ground this past January, but was mothballed while digital camera sales around the world plunged. This facility, in the town of Hasami, will be Canon's first new domestic camera factory in 27 years. It is expected to kick off operations in April 2010. The stock was up 1.3% at the end of the morning session.

The Nikkei was up 56.78 points or 0.59% at 9,725.74 when the morning session ended in Tokyo. The index had earlier moved on to 9,774.98.

In South Korea, bank and technology stocks are gaining in strength. Automobile stocks are off their highs due to lack of support. Shipbuilders are exhibiting weakness. Steel and oil issues are also trading weak and not much buying is seen in airlines and telecom stocks either.

The KOSPI, which slipped into the red after a positive start, has edged higher once again on bargain hunting at lower levels and is currently trading at 1,382.76, up 4.62 points or 0.34% over its previous close.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia and Singapore are trading with sharp gains. Shanghai, Hong Kong and New Zealand are trading modestly higher.

On Thursday, stock prices surged higher on Wall Street after an uncertain start. A highly encouraging report from the Labor Department that showed a decrease in first time jobless claims for the week ended May 30 and the first decrease in continuing claims in twenty weeks kept the mood fairly positive.

The major averages saw good upside in late session trading and closed just off of their best levels of the day. The Dow climbed 74.96 points or 0.9 percent to 8,750.24, the Nasdaq finished up 24.10 points or 1.3 percent at 1,850.02 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.70 points or 1.1 percent at 942.46.

In the Asia-Pacific region, markets had finished modestly lower on Thursday. Major European markets finished modestly higher. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up by 0.8 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index finished up by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil surged again on Thursday, boosted by an encouraging outlook from Goldman Sachs. Earlier, oil moved to within 40 cents of the key US$70 a barrel mark. Light sweet crude rallied to US$68.81 per barrel, up US$2.69 on the session. Oil hit a multi-month intraday high of US$69.60 earlier in the day.

Goldman Sachs raised its year-end forecast for crude oil to US$85 per barrel, up from the prior expectation of US$65 per barrel. The firm also indicated it no longer expects another drop before a rally.

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