CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading lower on Friday, with investors tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks ended slightly lower overnight following the release of a mixed batch of economic data.
Though most of the markets in the region opened notably lower, a few of them regained some lost ground as the session progressed with a section of investors indulging in some selective buying.
In the Australian market, energy, mining, industrial and property trusts stocks are trading lower, while financial and consumer staples stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to around 5,062, is currently trading at 5,081.1, down 23 points or 0.5 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 24 points or 0.5 percent at 5,096.4, after declining to 5,079.9 earlier.
Among bank stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac (WBK) and National Australia Bank are up 0.5 to 1 percent, while ANZ Bank (ANZ) is trading modestly lower. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are down 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.
Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are down 0.8 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum is down 1.2 percent, Santos is trading lower by 2.2 percent, Oil Search is down 1.1 percent and Origin Energy is down with a loss of 0.4 percent, while Caltex Australia is bucking the trend and trading higher by over 3 percent.
Perseus Mining is down as much as 6.2 percent. Westfield Retail Trust, Regis Resources, Iluka Resources, Adelaide Brighton, Fortescue Metals, Sims Metal Management, Leighton Holdings and Aurora Oil & Gas are down 3 to 4 percent.
CFS Retail Property Trust, Whitehaven Coal, Alumina (AWC), Carsales.Com and Amcor are also trading sharply lower.
Meanwhile, Harvey Norman Holdings, Treasury Wine Estates and Challenger are trading in positive territory, gaining more than 3.5 percent.
On the economic front, Australia's manufacturing sector continued to shrink in February, but the rate of contraction has slowed. The Australian Industry Group performance of manufacturing index rose 45.6 in February, up 5.4 points from its January level.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the Aussie was quoting at US$1.0220, down from Thursday's close of US$1.0276.
The Japanese stock market opened notably lower, with investors indulging in some profit taking after recent strong gains. A weak lead from Wall Street too contributed to the lower opening.
However, with stocks finding some solid support at lower levels, the market rebounded into positive territory subsequently and was up marginally when the morning session ended. Amid the release of a slew of economic data, the mood was somewhat cautious in the market.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to 11,464.7 at the start, was up 6.4 points at 11,565.7 at the end of the morning session.
Real estate, warehousing, electric power and land transport stocks were mostly trading in positive territory at the break, while shares from mining, textiles, automobile and financial sectors were slightly weak, despite coming off their early lows.
Heiwa Real Estate moved up by nearly 8 percent. Tokyo Tatemono, Tokyu Land and Tokyo Gas gained over 4 percent.
Daiwa Securities Group, Dentsu Inc., East Japan Railway, Central Japan Railway, Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Daikin Industries, Daiwa House Industry, Asahi Kasei Corp., Astellas Pharma, Japan Tobacco, JFE Holdings, Sharp Corp. and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha gained 1 to 4 percent.
JX Holdings, Japan Steel Works, Advantest Corp. (ATE), Nippon Electric Glass and Mitsumi Electric were some of the notable losers in the Nikkei index.
On the economic front, core inflation in Japan was down 0.2 percent on year in January, the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said on Friday - unchanged and in line with forecasts. Overall CPI was down an annual 0.3 percent versus forecasts for -0.2 percent after showing -0.1 percent in December. On month, core inflation eased 0.3 percent and overall CPI was flat.
Core CPI for the Tokyo region, considered a leading indicator for the nationwide trend, was down 0.6 percent on year in February compared to expectations for -0.5 percent, which would have been unchanged.
Overall inflation for Tokyo was down 0.9 percent on year versus forecasts for -0.6 percent after showing -0.5 percent in January. On month, core inflation was flat and overall CPI dipped 0.4 percent.
Japan had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in January, another report from the Ministry of Communications and Internal Affairs said. That was in line with expectations and down from the revised 4.3 percent in December (originally 4.2 percent).
The number of unemployed persons in January was 2.73 million, a decrease of 180 thousand or 6.2 percent from the previous year. The number of employed persons was 62.28 million, an increase of 170 thousand or 0.3 percent on year.
According to another report from the same ministry, average household spending in Japan was up 2.4 percent on year in January, standing at 288,934 yen. That topped forecasts for an increase of 0.4 percent following the 0.7 percent annual contraction in December. On month, household spending was up 1.9 percent, also beating forecasts for 0.5 percent.
The average monthly income per household stood at 433,858 yen, up 1.1 percent on year. The average of consumption expenditures per household was 321,065 yen, up an annual 4.1 percent.
A report from the Ministry of Finance said capital expenditure in Japan was down 8.7 percent on year in the fourth quarter of 2012, missing expectations for a contraction of 7.2 percent following the 2.2 percent annual increase in the previous three months.
Excluding software, capital expenditures were down 7.2 percent on year - also missing forecasts for a decline of 6.5 percent following the 2.4 percent gain in Q3.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the mid-92 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 92.62 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Indonesia and New Zealand are trading weak. Malaysia and Taiwan are up in positive territory, while Singapore is trading flat.
On Wall Street, stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance on Thursday as traders seemed somewhat reluctant to make any significant moves, weighing weaker than expected GDP data against upbeat reports on jobless claims and Chicago-area business activity.
The Dow dipped 20.9 points or 0.2 percent to 14,054.5, the Nasdaq edged down 2.1 points or 0.1 percent to 3,160.2 and the S&P 500 slipped 1.3 points or 0.1 percent to 1,514.7.
Major European markets ended higher on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index advanced by 0.6 percent, the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index both closed up by 0.9 percent.
U.S. crude oil settled lower on Thursday, on a strong dollar and demand concerns after the Energy Information Administration report yesterday showed crude stockpiles in the U.S. to have increased last week. Concerns over the eurozone and the sequestration debate also weighed on oil prices.
Crude for April delivery dropped $0.71 or 0.8 percent to close at $92.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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