RTTNews - The Korean benchmark index KOSPI is having a choppy ride on Friday with investors treading a cautious path ahead of some key economic data from the U.S. With the reporting season more or less over and prices having run up quite sharply over the past few weeks, participants appear a bit confused about the near term direction of the market.

The KOSPI, which shrugged off a negative start and moved on to 1,573, recording a modest gain in the process, is currently trading flat at 1,565. The index had edged up by 5.57 points or 0.36% to 1,565 on Thursday due largely to heavy buying in financial stocks on the back of some buoyant results.

Technology stocks are trading mixed. Hynix Semiconductor and LG Electronics are trading higher by 3.2% and 0.8% respectively while Samsung Electronics and LG Display LCD are down by 0.8% and 1.7%, from their previous closing levels.

In the automobile space, Kia Motor is up with a modest 0.7% gain, while Hyundai Motor is trading lower by 1.1%. Ssangyong Motor opened sharply higher and is up by 15% now.

Bank stocks are mostly trading in positive territory. Woori Finance is up by 1.8%. Shinhan Financial, Korea Exchange Bank and KB Financial are trading with modest gains.

Oil and energy stocks are trading modestly lower. Not much buying is happening in telecommunications and airlines stocks as well. Among steel stocks, Hyundai Steel is up modestly, while POSCO is down by 1%.

Shipbuilders are mostly trading weak. Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and STX Pan Ocean are down by 1% - 1.2%. Daewoo Shipbuilding, however, is gaining 0.7%.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand and Taiwan are up with modest gains while Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore are trading notably lower. Shanghai is down modestly from its previous close. Stock markets across the region had turned in a mixed performance on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks surrendered early gains and posted moderate losses overnight, as traders did some profit taking ahead of key employment data on tap for Friday. Though there were some encouraging signs on the jobless claims front, sales figures from major retailers were somewhat disappointing.

The Dow closed down by 24.71 points or 0.3% at 9,256, the Nasdaq eased by 19.89 points or 1% to 1,973, and the S&P 500 drifted down by 5.64 points or 0.6% to 997.

Major European markets closed on the upside by moderate margins. The French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index finished up by 0.6% and 0.3%, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index ended the day up by 0.9%.

Crude oil prices finished little changed on Thursday as a stronger-than expected employment report offset a stronger dollar and on reports OPEC isn't likely to cut production next month. Light sweet crude oil settled at US$71.94 per barrel, down 3 cents on the session. Earlier, oil had dropped below the US$71 mark.

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