(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are trading mixed on Thursday with investors mostly treading cautiously, tracking regional news for direction. Reports of some huge write-offs by a few leading Chinese banks appear to be weighing on sentiment to an extent in some of the markets in the region.
Despite a weak lead from the U.S. and European markets, the Australian stock market is trading higher, with key bank stocks posting impressive gains.
Shares from utilities, healthcare, property trusts and industrial sections are among the other notable gainers. Mining, energy and consumer staples stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 27.7 points or 0.5 percent at 5,383.8. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 5,382.9, up 26.1 points or 0.5 percent from its previous close.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia hit a record high, and is currently trading 0.8 percent up from its previous close. ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are also trading notably higher. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are also trading in positive territory, gaining 1.4 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is up marginally and Rio Tinto (RIO) is up 0.5 percent, while Fortescue Metals and Newcrest Mining are trading modestly lower.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy are all hovering around their previous closing prices, while Caltex Australia is adding about 0.5 percent.
Qantas Airways is up 3.7 percent, while Asciano and Toll Holdings are up by around 3.5 percent. Seek, Sonic Healthcare, Adelaide Brighton, AMP and AGL Energy are trading higher by 2 to 2.4 percent.
PanAust, Challenger, Arrium, APA Group, Leighton Holdings, Westfield Retail Trust and Bluescope Steel are also trading notably higher.
Meanwhile, Alumina (AWC), Treasury Wine Estates, Lend Lease Group and Aurora Oil & Gas are trading weak, losing 1.5 to 2.3 percent.
Wesfarmers is down marginally despite its Coles' supermarket chain and liquor stores selling A$6.9 million worth of goods during the September quarter, an increase of more than 4 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower against the U.S. dollar. Around noon, the local unit was quoting at US$0.9633, down from Wednesday's close of US$0.9653.
The Japanese stock market declined with investors pressing sales, tracking weak cues from Wall Street and on the dollar's weakness against the yen.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which tumbled to 14,273.7 in early trades, losing more than 150 points, was down 60.6 points or 0.4 percent at 14,365.5 when the morning session ended.
JTEKT Corp., Tokyo Electron, Yokogawa Electric Corp., Tokyo Tatemono, Komatsu, Chubu Electric Power and Shionogi lost 2 to 3 percent.
Kansai Electric Power, Chiba Bank, Furukawa, Isuzu Motors, J Front Retailing, Shinsei Bank, Advantest Corp. ( ATE ), Unitika and Sumitomo Metal Mining also declined sharply.
Meanwhile, Hitach Ltd. shares jumped nearly 7.5 percent following an announcement from the company that its group operating profit likely rose 6 percent in the April-September half.
Oki Electric Industry gained almost 5 percent. Fuji Electric, Astellas Pharma, Softbank Corp., JX Holdings, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Toshiba Corp., Yahoo Japan and Mazda Motor moved up 1 to 2.3 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 97 yen-range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 97.35 to the U.S. dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Taiwan are trading weak. Indonesia and Malaysia are trading notably higher, while Singapore and South Korea are up marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended weak on Wednesday, due largely to profit taking following the recent upward trend. Some disappointing earnings news and huge write-offs by some biggest Chinese banks too weighed on the markets to an extent.
The major averages ended the day firmly in negative territory but well off their worst levels. The Dow slid 54.3 points or 0.4 percent to 15,413.3, the Nasdaq declined 22.5 points or 0.6 percent to 3,907.1 and the S&P 500 dropped 8.3 points or 0.5 percent to 1,746.4.
Major European markets too closed lower on Wednesday. While the French CAC 40 index lost 0.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index both ended the day down by 0.3 percent.
U.S. crude oil ended sharply lower for a second straight session on Wednesday, mostly on demand growth concerns after the Energy Information Administration's weekly oil report showed U.S. crude oil stockpiles to have increased much more than expected last week.
Crude for December delivery plunged $1.44 or 1.5 percent to close at $96.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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