RTTNews - With investors looking to take some profits after recent strong rallies and choosing to tread cautiously ahead of the release of more earnings reports, Asian markets are trading mixed on Wednesday. A few markets in the region rebounded into positive territory after a weak start but have drifted lower and pared most of the gains due to a lack of support at higher levels.

In the Australian market, financials, consumer staples and healthcare stocks are trading higher while energy and materials stocks are mostly trading in the red. The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which had rallied to 4,181 from a low of 4,142, is currently trading at 4,168, down 1.5 points from its previous close. The All Ordinaries index is down 0.7 points at 4,173.

National Australia Bank Ltd has agreed to acquire 80.1% of Goldman Sachs JBWere's private wealth management business in Australia and New Zealand for A$99 million. NAB and GSJBW said additional consideration for the deal would be performance related and dependent on revenues generated by the business over three years. The National Australia Bank stock is currently down with a modest loss.

Other bank majors, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading modestly higher.

Macquarie Group Ltd says its operational performance improved in the first quarter of fiscal 2010, but short-term forecasting remains extremely difficult. The investment bank also said its first half profit was likely to be midway between the profit reported for the first half of fiscal 2009 and the second half of fiscal 2009. Macquarie Group stock is trading up by about 3%.

Energy stocks Origin Energy, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are trading weak. Among materials stocks, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are down sharply in the red. Orical, Fortescue Metals and Newcrest Mining are also trading weak.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower this morning, following a weak show by stocks on Wall Street overnight. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8267/69, down from Tuesday's close of US$0.8306/09. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8263 to the U.S. dollar.

In Tokyo, stocks rallied after a negative start but gave up most of their gains in late morning trading due to profit taking ahead of earnings reports.

The Japanese benchmark index Nikkei, which rallied to around 10,160 after a weak opening, was up 17.65 points or 0.17% at 10,105 at the end of the morning session.

Shares of Softbank Corp. surged higher, rising as much as 5% to 2,010 yen, the first foray above 2,000 yen since early August 2008. The stock attracted attention on news that Microsoft and Yahoo of the U.S. will soon join forces. Yahoo Japan Corp. is under the Softbank umbrella.

Hitachi was up sharply at the end of the morning session today following the firm hinting about using bank loans to finance planned tender offers for its five listed subsidiaries, including Hitachi Maxell Ltd. Besides the firm's plans to use bank funds instead of issuing fresh shares, the upward revision in rating for the stock by JP Morgan Securities Inc. also contributed to the stock's surge.

Shares of Canon Inc. rose sharply, gaining as much as 70 yen to hit 3,440 yen, following the firm raising its guidance for the company's group operating profit for the year through December. The upgrade was due to a 5% increase in the sales forecast for digital single-lens reflex cameras.

Among other stocks in the electric machinery space, Advantest, Taiyo Yuden, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. were trading with notable gains.

Steel and non-ferrous metals stocks are mostly trading in the red. Automobile stocks are exhibiting weakness. Machinery stocks are also seen struggling for support.

Bank stocks were trading mixed. Among securities stocks, Nomura Holdings, Daiwa Securities and Mizuho Securities Co. were trading lower.

Shares of construction machinery maker Komatsu Ltd. rebounded after a weak start this morning. On Tuesday evening, the construction machinery maker said group net profit slid 92% year on year to 4.7 billion yen in the April-June quarter. However, the figure was an improvement over the 34.5 billion yen loss of the preceding quarter. Earnings were buoyed by the firm trimming fixed costs by 10.5 billion yen through the consolidation of production lines. The firm kept its full-year earnings forecast unchanged.

According to the preliminary data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan's domestic retail sales registered a tenth straight month of decline as it fell 3% year on year to 10.65 trillion yen in June.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-94 yen range early Wednesday in Tokyo, a tad lower than its late Tuesday levels in New York. In early trading this morning, the dollar fetched fetched 94.41-44 yen against Tuesday's close of 94.50-60 yen in New York and 95.16-19 yen in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 94.47 to the U.S. dollar.

The Korean stock market is exhibiting a mixed trend on Wednesday with investors making cautious moves. The Korean benchmark index KOSPI, which shrugged off a negative start and rose to 1,530 in mid morning trading, is currently up by 1.5 points or 0.1% at 1,525.

Among automobile stocks, Ssangyong Motors is down sharply in the red, while Kia Motor and Hyundai Motor are trading with notable gains.

In the technology space, Hynix Semiconductor is up by about 2% and heavyweight Samsung Electronics is trading with a modest gain. LD Display LCD and LG Electronics are exhibiting weakness.

Oil stocks SK Holdings and S-Oil are trading modestly higher, while energy stock KEPCO is trading flat. Among steel majors, Hyundai Steel is up by as much as 5%. POSCO is down by about 1%.

Bank stocks are trading firm. Korea Exchange Bank is gaining 3.7%, Woori Finance is trading 1.1% up and Shinhan Financial is up by 1.6%. KB Financial is trading with a modest gain.

Among shipbuilders, Samsung Heavy Industries is up in positive territory, while Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding are trading lower by 2.3% and 0.7%, respectively. STX Pan Ocean is up nearly a percent. Airlines and telecom stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New Zealand are down sharply in the red. Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesian markets are trading flat. Stock markets across the region finished largely on the upside on Tuesday.

Wall Street ended Tuesday's session on a mixed note in reaction to the day's varied earnings and economic reports. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged mark, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq posting a modest gain.

On the economic front, according to a release from the Consumer Conference Board, the consumer confidence index fell to 46.6 in July, reflecting less favorable assessments of both current conditions and the near-term outlook. Earlier, Standard and Poor's released a separate report showing that although U.S. home prices continued to decline at a significant annual rate in the month of May, the pace of decline in prices slowed for the fourth consecutive month.

Major European markets closed firmly on the downside, with the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index finishing down by 1.5% and 1.2% respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index slipped by 1.3%.

Crude oil finished lower on Tuesday, surrendering some recent gains, on demand concerns. Light sweet crude for August delivery dropped to US$67.23 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down US$1.15 on the session.

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