CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading higher on Friday, tracking the overnight cues from Wall Street, where stocks closed higher on the back of strong corporate earnings and upbeat employment data.
The Australian market is trading in positive territory, led by mining stocks on the back of improved commodity prices.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is adding 30.20 points or 0.59 percent to 5,132.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index is gaining 30.30 points or 0.60 percent to 5,114.50. The Australian market was closed on Thursday for the Anzac Day holiday.
In the mining sector, BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are advancing more than 3 percent each, while gold miner Newcrest Mining is gaining almost 6 percent.
Among the major banks, National Australia Bank is adding 0.61 percent, ANZ is advancing 0.89 percent and Westpac (WBK) is up 1.2 percent. Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank is trading lower by 0.38 percent.
Australia's largest independent grains handler GrainCorp Ltd. agreed to a sweetened A$2.8 billion takeover bid by U.S.-based grains processor Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM). Under the latest offer, the third since ADM's initial approach in October 2012, GrainCorp shareholders will receive A$12.20 per share, with an additional A$1 per share to be paid in dividends. Shares of Graincorp are gaining almost 8 percent following the news.
Sleep disorder equipment supplier ResMed Inc. (RMD) posted record revenue and income for the March quarter. The company's revenue for the quarter rose 10 percent to $383.6 million, while net income surged 31 percent to $84.9 million or $0.58. However, the company's shares are down more than 1 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar was trading higher against the U.S. dollar on the back of strong overseas stock markets and higher commodities prices. In early trades, the local unit was trading at $1.0290, up from $1.0246 on Wednesday.
The Japanese market is trading higher, buoyed by the positive cues overnight from Wall Street and on local corporate earnings. However, the market has pared most of its early gains as investors treaded cautiously ahead of the outcome of the Bank of Japan's two-day monetary policy meeting ending later in the day.
The Bank of Japan is convening its second policy board meeting under the leadership of Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. While the central bank is not expected to introduce additional easing steps in the meeting following the launch of aggressive bond purchase program on April 4, the market will pay close attention to the central bank's release of its half-yearly report on its price and growth forecasts.
In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is currently up 8.75 points or 0.06 percent to 13,934.83, after advancing to as high as 13,983.87, the highest intraday level since June 20, 2008.
Exporters, including electronics maker Sony Corp. (SNE) and construction machinery maker Komatsu Ltd., are trading higher on the back of their strong earnings outlook.
Consumer electronics company Sony on Thursday raised its operating profit forecast for the year ended March 2013 to 230 billion yen from the prior 130 billion yen. The company's stock is adding 0.61 percent.
Shares of Komatsu are gaining more than 2 percent after the company forecast operating profit for fiscal 2013 to increase 44 percent to 305 billion yen.
However, NEC shares are down more than 7.5 percent after the company's weaker-than-expected earnings forecast for fiscal 2012. Operating profit for the year ended March 2013 surged 60 percent on the previous year to slightly more than 110 billion yen, but fell 20 billion yen short of the average market analyst's projection of 132.8 billion yen.
Japan Tobacco is advancing 4.6 percent after the company forecast record profits for the current business year.
Yahoo Japan is trading lower by 2.4 percent despite the company reporting a 14 percent increase in net profit for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013.
On the economic front, consumer prices in Japan posted the sharpest decline in two years in March. The core consumer price index, that excludes fresh food, fell 0.5 percent year-on-year in March, the Statistics Bureau said Friday. This marked the fifth straight monthly fall in prices and was faster than a 0.4 percent decline expected.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar was trading in the upper 98 yen range on Friday. In late-morning trades, the dollar was trading in a range of 98.85-98.88 yen, down 0.36 yen from Thursday's close of in Tokyo.
Among other markets in the Asian region, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are trading in positive territory. Meanwhile, South Korea and Shanghai are trading marginally lower.
On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday after ending the previous session roughly flat. The markets benefited from a positive reaction to the latest earnings news as well as some upbeat employment data.
The major averages ended the day in positive territory in positive territory but well off their highs for the session. The Dow edged up 24.50 points or 0.2 percent or 14,700.80, the Nasdaq rose 20.33 points or 0.6 percent to 3,289.99 and the S&P 500 climbed 6.37 points or 0.4 percent to 1,585.16.
The major European markets also turned mixed on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index surged up by 1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.2 percent.
U.S. crude oil gained nearly 2.5 percent to end at a two-week high on Thursday, as risk appetite improved, tracking global stocks that turned in some strong performances. Oil also found support as the dollar weakened against a few major currencies, with some positive initial jobs data from the U.S. and some encouraging economic reports from Europe.
Crude Oil futures for June delivery, the most actively traded contract, surged $2.21 or 2.4 percent to close at $91.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday.
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