After a subdued start, the Korean stock market edged higher in subsequent trading, with bank, steel, technology and airline stocks posting sharp gains. However, due to profit taking, most of these stocks have drifted down from their highs, dragging the benchmark index KOSPI down into the red.

The KOSPI, which rose to 1,409 after opening at 1,400, is now trading at 1,392, down 5.79 points from its previous close.

Among bank stocks, Woori Finance is up 3.7%. Korea Exchange Bank is trading with a 2% gain and KB Financial is up 2.5%. However, Shinhan Financial is down in the red with a loss of 1.4%.

Automobile stocks are exhibiting weakness. Ssangyong Motor is down 2.85%. Hyundai Motor is trading lower by 1.3%, while Kia Motor is down with a marginal loss.

Leading steel stocks Hyundai Steel and POSCO are trading stronger by 5.5% and 3.5%, respectively.

Among tech stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is up 1.7%. LG Electronics and LG Display LCD are up by around half a percent over their previous closing levels. Heavyweight stock Samsung Electronics is down 1.3%.

Korean Airline is up 3.3% and Asiana Airline is trading 4.2% higher.

Oil and shipbuilding stocks are trading mixed. Among oil stocks, SK Holdings is up 1.2%, while S-Oil is down 0.5%. Energy stock KEPCO is down 2.5%. Among those in the shipbuilding space, Hyundai Heavy Industries is down 1.5%. Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipping are trading higher by 0.8% and 1%, respectively.

Bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean is trading firm with a 2.5% gain. Among telecom stocks, SK Telecom is up marginally, while KT Corp. is down 1.6%.

Among the other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong are trading sharply lower. The New Zealand market is trading firm, while the Malaysian market is down marginally.

Most of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region ended on a firm note on Tuesday, extending their recent gains. The Japanese and Korean markets remained closed.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance, as stocks in London played catch up after the market was closed on Monday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped 2.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index fell 0.4 percent and the German DAX Index fell 1.0 percent.

On Tuesday, Wall Street saw some hectic profit taking after the splendid rally stocks had staged in the previous session. Still, the slide was not significantly sharp as the undertone remained fairly positive following some confident remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The major averages staged a notable recovery attempt in late-day trading but still ended the session modestly lower. The Dow closed down 16.09 points and the Nasdaq ended 9.44 points down. The S&P 500 closed down 3.44 points.

Crude oil prices dropped off of a five-month high on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday as investors awaited the Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory data. Experts are predicting a 10th straight weekly build in stockpiles.

Light sweet crude oil for June delivery dropped to $53.84, down 63 cents on the session. Prices touched as low as $53.50 earlier in the session after earlier hitting as high as $54.83.

The Fed Chairman testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, noting that recent data has suggested that the pace of contraction in the U.S. economy may be slowing.

He said recent data shows some signs that the beleaguered housing market may be bottoming and noted that the available indicators of business investment remain extremely weak.

Looking forward, Bernanke said economic activity is expected to bottom out then turn up later this year. Nonetheless, he noted that the rate of growth of real economic activity is likely to remain below its longer-run potential for a while.

According to a release from the Institute for Supply Management, ISM's index of activity in the service sector rose to 43.7 in April from 40.8 in March, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 42.2.

The release of Automatic Data Processing's (ADP) report on private sector employment in the month of April could shed some light on the strength of the Labor Department's monthly employment report.

On Thursday, the results of the government's stress tests of the nation's largest financial firms will be released and market participants across the globe will be looking forward to it.

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