The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended mixed on Friday, but sharply lower from the day's high as investors preferred to take profits from the recent relief rally. The markets, taking cue from the U.S where markets gained overnight, opened strongly in early trading on optimism that that the efforts initiated by the U.S. Government will help in reviving the economy earlier than expected. Hopes of recovery are slowly replacing the outright pessimistic outlook about the strength of the global economy and the market sentiment is changing for the better.
On Thursday, the Dow closed up 174.75 points or 2.3% at 7,925, the Nasdaq closed up 58.05 points or 3.8% at 1,587 and the S&P 500 closed up 18.98 points or 2.3% at 833.
In Asian trading, crude oil ended modestly down by 0.56% at $54.02 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $54.34 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $1.57 on the session.
The bench mark Nikkei 225 Index shed 9.36 points, or 0.11%, to close at 8,627, and the broader Topix Index of all First Section Issues declined 2.28 points, to close at 824.
On the economic front on Friday, a report revealed that consumer prices in Japan for the year to February were little changed. The government reported that the core consumer price index was unchanged in February from one year earlier, while the overall CPI was down 0.1% year-on-year. The report showed that overall inflation was down 0.3% compared to one month earlier.
Core consumer prices in the Tokyo metropolitan region were up 0.4% in March following a 0.6% increase in February. Tokyo's overall CPI was up 0.3% year-over-year. Tokyo data is considered a leading indicator of the nationwide trends.
Meanwhile, retail sales in Japan plummeted by 5.8% in February when compared to a year earlier, according to government data. The decline was the sharpest in 7 years and the fifth straight month of lower retail sales. The government noted that the year-over-year decline is partly attributable to the leap year adding an extra business day to last year's calendar. Sales by large-scale retailers were down 8.2% following an upwardly revised decline of 5.5% in January.
Property firms ended higher following media reports that Japan's ruling coalition is considering plans to set up an investment fund of 1 trillion yen that will use money raised from the public and private sectors to buy properties held by real estate investment trusts and make loans to REITs. Mitsui Fudosan gained 2.89% and Mitsubishi Estate advanced 1.55%.
Financial stocks ended weak on profit taking. Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, declined 2.41%. Sumitomo Mitsui lost 3.03% and Resona Holdings fell 5.53%. Shares of Mizuho Financial dropped 6.09% and brokerage Nomura Holdings moved down 1.08%.
Among the major exporters, Canon rose 1.85%, but Sony declined 1.89%. Automakers advanced on optimism about revival in global demand. Toyota gained 0.93% and Honda advanced 3.79%. Honda said Thursday that an assembly plant under construction in Japan would not come on stream until 2012 or later. The factory was originally slated to open in 2010, but was delayed by more than one year to 2011 or later.
Oil-related stocks also ended mixed. While Inpex edged down 0.14%, Nippon Oil rose 1.33% and Showa Shell advanced 1.87%. Meanwhile, among trading houses, Mitsubishi Corp. gained 1.24% while Sumitomo Corp. slipped down 0.86%.
In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 25.7 points or 0.70% to 3,672, and the broader All Ordinaries index gained 29.30 points, or 0.80%, to 3,616. Investors resorted to profit taking after a strong rally in the past few trading sessions dragging the indices from the day's high.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton gained 0.68% and Rio Tinto advanced 3.99%. Gold miners moved up after gold closed higher for a second straight session on Thursday. Newcrest Mining moved up 2.69% and Lihir Gold gained 0.31%. However, Sino Gold bucked trend and shed 3.27%.
Financial stocks were mixed. National Australia Bank advanced 0.48% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.72%. However, ANZ Banking declined 1.49% and West Bank lost 2.35%, on profit taking. Investment bank Macquarie Group rose 2.17%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside decreased 2.84%, while Santos gained 0.87%, and Oil Search edged up 0.18%.
In the retail sector, David Jones slipped 1.65%, while Coles' owner Wesfarmers gained 0.48%, and Woolworths gained 1.23%.
The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea ended lower by 6.29 points, or 0.51% at 1,237.51.
Among the technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor advanced 2.54% while LG Display fell 0.87%. Shares of LG Electronics remained unchanged. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics gained 2.64%.
Among the automakers, Kia Motors rose 0.63%, Hyundai Motor gained 2.61%, and Ssangyang Motor moved up 0.37%.
Financials ended weak on profit taking. While KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, declined 1.36%, Shinhan Financial fell 3.61% and Woori Finance lost 7.80%.
Shipbuilders ended mixed. While Hyundai Heavy Industries edged up 0.20%, Daewoo Ship building lost 4.19%, and Samsung Heavy Industries declined 2.00%.
Oil related stocks ended lower. S-Oil fell 1.32% and SK Holdings declined 0.83%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong, which opened Friday's session at 14,258 compared to its previous close at 14,109, pared most of its gains during the trading session and ended higher by 10.52 points, or 0.07% at 14,119. Almost all the stocks witnessed profit taking following a rally in the past few trading sessions.
Among the china-related stocks, China Mercantile Holdings rose 2.67% and China Overseas advanced 4.56%. However, Sinopec Corp. lost 0.20%, and China Resources fell 1.14%.
Telecom stocks ended mixed. While Tencent Holdings gained 3.24%, Hutchison Whimpoa declined 1.88%, and China Mobile moved down 0.21%.
Among the financial stocks, ICBC bank gained 1.95%, Bank of China advanced 1.15%, Bank of Hong Kong rose 2.93%, and HSBC Holdings moved up 1.04%. However, Hang Seng Bank dropped 1.79%, Bank of East Asia lost 1.89%, CCB shed 1.05% and Bank of Communications fell 1.72%, on profit taking.
Insurance stocks also ended weak. Ping An declined 1.11% and China Life slipped 1.13%.
Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco, shed 0.96%, and Petrochina fell 0.89%. However, CNOOC gained 0.48%.
Among the other major markets, China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 12.73 points, or 0.54%, to 2,374, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index gained 3.01% or 42.77 points to 1,463, and Taiwan's Weighted Index edged up 0.08% or 4.14 points to 5,391. However, Singapore's Strait Times Index slipped 0.75% of 13.13 points, to 1,746.
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