(RTTNews.com) - Despite a flat lead from Wall Street, Asian stock markets are mostly trading higher on Tuesday. The mood, however, is somewhat cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen's first testimony to the House later in the day.
In the Australian market, financial and property trusts stocks are trading firm. Mining stocks opened on a subdued note, but are currently trading mostly higher. Energy, consumer discretionary, industrial and healthcare stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 35.6 points or 0.7 percent at 5,257.7. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 5,268.8, up 32.3 points or 0.6 percent from its previous close.
Among bank stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are trading higher by 1.3 to 1.7 percent and ANZ Bank is up 2.5 percent. ANZ announced that its first-quarter cash profit rose more than 13 per cent to A$1.73 billion on the back of growth in home lending and lower bad debts.
Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are up 1.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is up 0.5 percent, Fortescue Metals is trading 0.3 percent up and Newcrest Mining is advancing 3 percent, while Rio Tinto (RIO) is trading weak, losing about 0.4 percent.
Regis Resources, ResMed Inc. ( RMD ), QBE Insurance Group, Oz Minerals, Orora, Challenger, Origin Energy, Flight Centre Group and Asciano are up 2 to 3.5 percent. ALS, Coca-Cola Amatil and Navitas are also trading sharply higher.
Cochlear is trading lower by 10 percent following the company reporting a sharp 73 percent drop in interim net profit.
Among other notable losers, Macquarie Group is down 3.5 percent, Tabcorp Holdings is trading lower by about 2.8 percent, Challenger is dwon 2.8 percent and UGL is down nearly 2 percent.
On the economic front, the total number of home loans in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent on month in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday - standing at 51,692. That missed forecasts for an increase of 0.7 percent following the upwardly revised 1.4 percent gain in November.
The value of home loans was up 0.2 percent on month to A$27.050 billion. That follows the 2.2 percent jump in the previous month. Investment lending climbed 2.9 percent to A$10.77 billion - accelerating from the 2.0 percent increase a month prior.
Loans for the construction of dwellings added 0.4 percent on month, while loans for the purchase of new dwellings dropped 1.9 percent and loans for the purchase of established dwellings fell 2.2 percent.
According to another report from the bureau, house prices in Australia climbed 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the previous three months. That beat forecasts for an increase of 3.0 percent following the upwardly revised gain of 2.4 percent in the third quarter.
On a yearly basis, house prices jumped 9.3 percent - also topping expectations for a gain of 8.6 percent following the upwardly revised 8.0 percent increase in the previous three months.
The total value of residential dwellings in Australia was A$5,017,041.4 million at the end of December quarter, rising A$184,304.7 million over the quarter.
According to survey results released by National Australia Bank, business confidence in Australia rose modestly in January to Plus-8 from a December reading of Plus-6. It was the first increase in the confidence index in four months. NAB's accompanying index of current business conditions rose to Plus-4 from a revised December reading of Plus-3.
NAB noted business conditions in January were little changed and remained near three-year highs. Both indices, it said, were near or above trend levels.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened slightly higher against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at US$0.8994, up 0.6 percent from Monday's close of US$0.8935.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan are all trading notably higher, while Malaysia and Shanghai are up with modest gains. The Japanese stock market is closed for National Foundation Day holiday.
On Wall Street, stocks ended marginally up on Monday, after showing a lack of direction throughout much of the trading session, with investors continuing to digest last Friday's monthly jobs report amid a lack of new U.S. economic data.
The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts. While the Nasdaq advanced 22.3 points or 0.5 percent to 4,148.2, the Dow inched up 7.7 points or 0.1 percent to 15,801.8 and the S&P 500 edged up 2.8 points or 0.2 percent to 1,799.8.
Major European markets ended mixed on Monday. While the German DAX index edged down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index gained 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended marginally higher on Monday. Crude for March delivery ended up $0.18 at $100.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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