CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading weak on Tuesday with investors tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks ended lower overnight following a bout of profit taking.
After a positive start and a subsequent smart upmove, the Australian stock market is trading marginally down with investors pressing sales at higher levels, amid a lack of fresh triggers.
Consumer staples, energy, healthcare, information technology and telecommunications stocks are finding some support, while shares from financial, industrial and mining sections are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to 4,736.5 in early trades, is currently down 2.8 points at 4,714.5. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 3.2 points t 4,734.9, more than 20 points off the day's high of 4,756.2.
Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Caltex Australia are up 1.2 to 1.6 percent. Origin Energy is trading higher by 0.6 percent.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP, BBL) and Newcrest Mining are up marginally, while Rio Tinto (RIO, RIO.L) and Fortescue Metals are down 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
In the banking space, ANZ Bank (ANZ) and National Australia Bank are trading flat, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading lower by over 1 percent and Westpac is trading in positive territory with a gain of about 0.6 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up 0.7 percent and Bank of Queensland is trading 0.3 percent down.
Alumina (AWC), Aristocrat Leisure, Lend Lease Group, Toll Holdings and Adelaide Brighton are up 2 to 4 percent. SP Ausnet, Commonwealth Property Office Fund, Boral, Harvey Norman Holdings, AMP and Computershare are trading higher by 1.5 to 2 percent.
Atlas Iron, Aurizon Holdings, Lynas Corp., Treasury Wine Estates, Sims Metal Management and Bluescope Steel are trading lower by 1.4 to 2.4 percent.
In economic news, Australia saw a seasonally-adjusted merchandise trade deficit of A$2.64 billion in November, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. That missed forecasts for a shortfall of A$2.30 billion following the downwardly revised deficit of A$2.443 billion in October, originally A$2.088 billion.
Exports were up 1.0 percent on month to A$24.68 billion, while imports climbed 2.0 percent to A$27.32 billion.
Meanwhile, an index measuring construction activity in Australia came in with a score of 38.8 in December, the Australian Industry Group said. That's up from 37.0 in November, but it remains significantly below the boom-or-bust level of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. In all, the index has climbed higher in each of the last three months.
Among the individual components of the survey, commercial construction activity fell at the slowest pace in two years, while the decline in engineering construction also slowed.
The Japanese stock market opened lower, with investors tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks ended lower overnight. Profit taking after recent gains and the yen's surge against the U.S. dollar too contributed to the weak start.
Banking, precision instruments, rubber and pulp & paper stocks mostly opened weak, but subsequently regained some lost ground. Foods, manufacturing, communications, oil and non-ferrous metals stocks traded mixed.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which rebounded to 10,602 after declining to 10,532 in early trades, was down 50.5 points or 0.5 percent at 10,548.6 when the morning session ended.
NTN Corp., Alps Electric, Mitsui Chemicals and Tokuyama Corp. shares lost more than 4 percent.
Aozora Bank declined by over 3 percent following the bank confirming that Cerberus Capital Management LP will offload most of its stake in the firm.
Konami Corp., Yaskawa Electric, Mazda Motor, Sumco Corp., Casio Computer, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Nomura Holdings, Komatsu and Nippon Electric Glass were down 2 to 4 percent at the break.
Isuzu Motors, Suzuki Motor, Nissan Motor, Japan Steel Works, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Tokyo Electric Power, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU), Kobe Steel and Mitsubishi Materials also posted notable losses.
Sharp Corp. gained more than 5 percent on expectations of a sharp jump in earnings. Nitto Boseki moved up by about 4 percent. Hitachi Zosen and ComSys Holdings Corp. gained around 3.3 percent.
Shiseido Co. shares moved up more than 3 percent following a rating upgrade of the stock.
Pioneer Corp., Konica Minolta Holdings, Mitsui OSK Lines, Unitika, Japan Tobacco, Shinsei Bank, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Chugai Pharmaceutical, East Japan Railway and Canon Inc. (CAJ) also posted strong gains.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was trading in the lower 87 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 87.40 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are down with modest losses, while Indonesia and New Zealand are bucking the trend and trading marginally higher.
On Wall Street, stocks mostly ended lower on Monday, as traders cashed in on the recent strength in the markets. The major averages ended the day in negative territory, but well off their lows for the session.
The Dow declined 50.9 points or 0.4 percent to 13,384.3, the Nasdaq edged down 2.8 points or 0.1 percent to 3,098.8 and the S&P 500 dipped 4.6 points or 0.3 percent to 1,461.9.
Major European markets too closed weak on Monday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index ended down 0.4 percent, while the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index lost 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended higher on Monday as the dollar weakened. Supporting crude prices were the U.S. Energy Information Administration's weekly oil report last week which showed a huge decline in crude oil inventories.
Crude for February delivery moved up $0.10 or 0.1 percent to close at $93.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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