CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are trading firm Wednesday, tracking a positive lead from Wall Street where stocks posted strong gains overnight amid a slew of upbeat earnings report.
The Australian stock market is trading higher, aided by fairly strong gains posted by stocks from the resources sector following a surge in commodity prices.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which surged to 4,906.2, is currently trading at 4,901, up 12 points or 0.2 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 12.2 points or 0.2 percent at 4,923, off the day's high of 4,928.6.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP, BBL) is up 1 percent, Rio Tinto (RIO) is adding 1.5 percent and Fortescue Metals is up nearly 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is trading modestly higher.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum is up 0.6 percent, Santos is gaining about 1.6 percent and Oil Search is up 3.5 percent, while Origin Energy and Caltex Australia are trading weak, losing 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are trading modestly higher, while Westpac (WBK) is down marginally. Bank of Queensland is up 2.5 percent and Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is trading modestly higher.
Leighton Holdings is up nearly 5 percent. QBE Insurance Group is trading 4.5 percent up. Lynas Corp., Oz Minerals, Iluka Resources and Aurora Oil & Gas are up 3 to 3.6 percent. James Hardie Industries, PanAust, Sims Metal Management, Incitec Pivot and Toll Holdings are also trading notably higher.
Meanwhile, Myer Holdings, Wesfarmers, Mirvac Group, Alumina (AWC) and APA Group are down 1.5 to 2.3 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher and was quoting at US$1.0461 around noon, up marginally from Tuesday's close of US$1.0452.
The Japanese stock market opened on a firm note, buoyed by strong gains posted by Wall Street overnight. A weaker yen too contributed to the bright start.
Mining, pharmaceuticals, automobile, financial and non-ferrous metals stocks were among the most prominent gainers. Insurance, electric power and pulp & paper stocks were mixed.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 124 points or 1.1 percent at 10,990.8 when the morning session ended.
Yahoo Japan Corp. shares spurted nearly 15 percent on a share buy-back plan. Central Japan Railway gained nearly 10 percent following a near 50 percent surge in net income.
Softbank Corp. shares, which gained over 4 percent in early trades following media reports of a likely surge in the company's operating profit, came off higher levels subsequently, but were still trading firm at the break, netting a gain of about 2.5 percent.
Kajima Corp., Chiyoda Corp., Mitsubishi Logistics, Nitto Boseki, Hino Motors, Mazda Motor, MS&AD Insurance Group, Olympus Group, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Taiheiyo Cement moved up by 2 to 3.5 percent.
Oki Electric Industries, Sumitomo Realty & Development, Fast Retailing, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Pacific Metals also posted strong gains.
Meanwhile, Fujifilm Holdings, Citizen Holdings, GS Yuasa, Mitsubishi Paper Mills, Mitsubishi Motors, Chubu Electric Power and Sumitomo Electric Industries traded weak, losing 1 to 2 percent.
On the economic front, retail sales in Japan were up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent at 13.098 trillion yen in December, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Wednesday. That missed forecasts for an increase of 0.4 percent following the downwardly revised 0.1 percent contraction in November.
On a yearly basis, retail sales were up 0.4 percent - beating forecasts for a gain of 0.3 percent after adding a downwardly revised 1.2 percent in the previous month.
Sales from large retailers were flat on year at 2.105 trillion - also topping expectations for a decline of 1.0 percent after rising 0.9 percent a month earlier.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 90 yen level in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 90.90 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore are trading with strong gains. Shanghai, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan are also trading firm, while Malaysia is trading weak.
On Wall Street, stocks closed mostly higher on Tuesday, with investors reacting positively to some latest earnings news. The Dow rose 72.5 points or 0.5 percent to 13,954.4, a five-year closing high. The S&P too hit a five-year closing high, finishing up 7.7 points or 0.5 percent, at 1,507.8, while the Nasdaq ended slightly lower at 3,153.7.
Major European markets closed higher on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index advanced by 0.7 percent, the German DAX index and the French CAC index inched up by 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil settled at a four-month high on Tuesday, due largely on supply concerns with geo-political tensions in the Middle East threatening to disrupt oil outflow. Crude for March delivery gained $1.13 or 1.2 percent to close at $97.57 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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