The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading in positive territory on Thursday morning, following the positive closing on Wall Street overnight, led by financial stocks after a report from the Federal Reserve signaled that the contraction in the economy is slowing down.

However, the markets pared off most of the gains following China's GDP numbers, which showed that the economy contracted 6.1% quarter-over-quarter in first quarter. Nevertheless, the markets are trading in positive territory on expectations that the global recovery might take place earlier-than-expected.

On Wednesday, the Nasdaq ended the session up 1.08 points or 0.1% at 1,627, while the Dow jumped 109.44 points or 1.4% to 8,030 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.56 points or 1.3% at 852.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently up $0.75 at $50.00 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $0.16 at $49.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday after an Energy Information Administration data revealed commercial crude oil inventories increased for a 25th time in 29 weeks by 5.6 million barrels to 366.7 million barrels in the week ended April 10, 2009.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 85.62 points to 8,829 and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues is adding 11.18 points to 846.

On the economic front, Japan's Ministry of Finance reported Thursday that overseas residents purchased a net 114.5 billion yen in Japan stocks for the week of April 5 through 11, their second straight week as net purchasers. However, foreigners dumped a net 169.3 billion yen in Japanese bonds and notes for the week, after having been net buyers the week before. Meanwhile, Japanese residents remained net buyers of foreign-based stocks, purchasing a net 7.9 billion yen worth. They also acquired a net 818.3 billion yen in foreign bonds and notes, after having been sellers of a revised net 2.113 trillion yen worth in the previous week.

Shares of NEC Electronics opened bid-only after reports said the company and Renesas Technology Corp. are in the final stage of talks on a merger in a bid to survive as sales slump amid global economic turmoil. Renesas is a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Wigmaker Aderans Holdings Co.'s board will approve a tender offer for at least 33.4% of its shares by investment fund Unison Capital Inc. at a meeting later in the day, the Nikkei business daily reported. The offer price is expected to be 1,000 yen per share. Aderans opened bid-only Thursday morning.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, is losing 0.58%, Mizuho Financial is up 2.08%, but Sumitomo Mitsui is advancing 0.84% and Resona Holdings is gaining 0.91%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings is up 2.68%.

Among exporters, Canon is adding 1.98%, Sony is gaining 3.07% and Sharp is advancing 1.98%. Automaker Toyota is up 1.32% and Honda is adding 2.02%.

In the oil sector, Inpex is trading unchanged, Nippon Oil is rising 3.86% and Showa Shell is advancing 4.02%. Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is gaining 3.30%, Sumitomo Corp. is rising 2.76% and Itochu is adding 3.52%.

Drug maker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.'s consolidated operating profit for the year ended March 31, 2009 is expected to have fallen 31%, which is an improvement over earlier projections, the Nikkei business daily said. The company's shares are advancing 0.56%.

Asahi Glass said on Wednesday it will end production of auto glass at one of its three factories in Japan in response to slumping demand. The company's stock is gaining 2.02%

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is gaining 31.1 points to 3,779, and the broader All Ordinaries index is up 33.8 points to 3,728.

Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up 1.49%, ANZ Banking Group is rising 0.32%, and National Australia Bank is adding 1.84%. Westpac is edging up 0.10%, and investment bank Macquarie Group is gaining 3.45%.

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is edging down 0.24%, and Rio Tinto is gaining 1.06%. Gold miners are weaker despite gold closing marginally higher on Wednesday. Lihir Gold is edging down 0.33%, Sino Gold is losing 0.56%, and Newcrest Mining is dropping 1.18%.

Among energy stocks, Woodside is rising 1.05%, Oil Search is edging up 0.19%, and Santos is adding 1.07%.

In the retail sector, David Jones is adding 0.65%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers is rising 3.22%, and Woolworths is edging up 0.39%.

In South Korea, the benchmark KOSPI Index opened Thursday's session at 1,356, sharply higher than its previous close of 1,333, and is currently trading at 1,358, up 1.90% or 25.34 points.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Trade and Finance stated that exports from the country is expected to shrink 16% during the year 2009 to $354.5 billion from $422 billion reported for last year. Attributing a protracted global slowdown as the primary reason, the Ministry noted that imports into the country might also shrink 21% from last year.

A report released by the National Statistical Office yesterday revealed the unemployment rate increased to 4% during March from 3.9% recorded in February, as more companies are trimming their existing work force on fears of a worsening economic slowdown.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 1.88%. Among the other technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is gaining 1.86%, LG Electronics is advancing 4.83%, and LG Display is adding 0.64%.

Financials are trading higher. KB Financial Group is advancing 2.93%, Shinhan Financial is gaining 2.35% and Woori Finance is rising 1.33%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is adding 3.11%, Samsung Heavy Industries is advancing 1.98% and Daewoo Shipping is gaining 1.91%.

In the auto space, Hyundai Motor is edging up 0.61%, Kia Motor is gaining 1.10%, and Ssangyong Motor is advancing 1.85%.

Among oil-related stocks, S-Oil is gaining 0.81% and SK Holdings is adding up 2.22%

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index opened higher at 15,929, compared to its previous close of 15,670 and is presently trading at 15,673, down 3.82 points, or 0.02%. China-related shares led the declines following the release of China's GDP for first quarter.

China Resources is losing 2.50%, China Overseas is down 2.03%, China Mercantile Holdings is falling 1.34%, and China Shenhua is declining 2.18%.

Mixed trading is being witnessed among resource stocks. While Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, is rising 2.74%, CNOOC is losing 2.54% and PetroChina is edging down 0.57%.

Among banks, HSBC Holdings is gaining 0.64% and Hang Seng Bank is edging up 0.17%. However, Bank of Communications is falling 0.16%, Bank of China is down 0.68% and Bank of East Asia is slipping 0.83%.

Insurance stocks are trading weak. Ping An is down 0.95% and China Life is easing 0.89%.

Among the gainers, apparel chain store Espirit Holdings is gaining 3.28% and toy maker Li & Fung is advancing 1.70%.

Mixed trading is being witnessed among the property stocks. While Henderson Land is gaining 0.29% and SHK Properties is edging up 0.24%, Wharf Holdings is losing 0.89%, New World Development is falling 1.15% and Hang Lung Property is declining 3.04%.

Among the other major markets trading across the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index is losing 3.51 points, or 0.14%, to 2,532, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index is gaining 38.52 points, or 2.42%, to 1,632, Singapore's Strait Times Index is adding 9.45 points, or 0.50% to 1,915, and Taiwan's Weighted Index is moving up 2.03% or 119.21 points, to 5,994.

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