(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are trading in positive territory on Monday with investors tracking cues from Wall Street, where stocks posted strong gains Friday on bargain hunting and on strong results from Hewlett-Packard.
However, with a section of traders turning cautious at higher levels, most of the markets in the region came off their highs and are currently trading just marginally up.
In the Australian market, consumer discretionary, information technology, financial and energy stocks are among the top gainers.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which advanced to 5,064.3, is currently trading at 5,048, up 29.9 points or 0.6 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 28.7 points or 0.6 percent at 5,065.4, off the day's high of 5,081.9.
Beach Energy is up more than 8 percent. Alumina (AWC) is trading higher by 3.5 percent. Monadelphous Group, Tatts Group, Origin Energy and Santos are up 2.5 to 3 percent.
Lend Lease Group, Echo Entertainment Group, AMP, Downer EDI, Woolworths, Regis Resources, Whitehaven Coal, Mirvac Group, ALS and Lynas Corp. are trading higher by 1.8 to 2.4 percent.
Caltex Australia is up nearly 2 percent after the company said it returned to profitability with a net profit of A$149 million for the year to December 31.
Ten Network shares are up nearly 9 percent following the company sacking its chief executive James Warburton and replacing him with News Corporation executive Hamish McLennan. Investors appear to be betting on hopes that McLennan's appointment could result in a possible takeover bid for Ten by News Corp.
Meanwhile, Perseus Mining and Suncorp Group are trading sharply lower, losing 3.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. WorleyParsons, another prominent loser, is down nearly 2 percent.
Shares of pie maker Patties Foods Ltd. are down more than 7 percent following the company posting a 16.5 percent decline in first-half profit, due to increased competition. Sales revenue for the half was up 5.1 percent to A$125.5 million.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar was quoting at US$1.0314 in early trades, up slightly from Friday's close of US$1.0313.
The Japanese stock market opened on a firm note with stocks moving up sharply on hopes that the likely appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as the next governor of Bank of Japan will result in some bold monetary easing steps. The yen's weakness against the U.S. dollar too triggered some hectic buying.
With stocks across the board surging higher, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index spurted to 11,618.5 in early trades, its best level since September 29, 2008. The index was up 221.8 points or nearly 2 percent at 11,607.7 when the morning session ended.
Automobile, banking, machinery, non-ferrous metals, foods, retail and pharmaceuticals stocks were mostly up with strong gains.
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, up nearly 10 percent, was the top gainer in the Nikkei index. Amada Co. and Nitto Boseki were trading higher by over 6.5 percent. Minebea, NSK, Kobe Steel, Nisshinbo Holdings, JFE Holdings and Dentsu Inc. gained 5 to 6 percent.
Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, Mitsui OSK Lines, Marui Group, Nippon Yusen KK, IHI Corp., Tokyo Tatemono, Pacific Metals, Citizen Holdings and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. were all up by over 4 percent.
Fuji Electric, Advantest Corp. ( ATE ), Panasonic Corp. (PC), Sony Corp. ( SNE ), Showa Denko KK, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, JX Holdings, Asahi Glass, Olympus Corp., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Canon Inc. ( CAJ ) and Japan Steel Works also rose sharply.
Among bank stocks, Aozora Bank, Shinsei Bank, Bank of Yokohama, Mizuho Financial ( MFG ) and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial ( MTU ) gained more than 2 percent.
In the automobile space, Hino Motors, Honda Motor ( HMC ), Toyota Motor ( TM ) and Isuzu Motors posted sharp gains.
Meanwhile, Sharp Corp. shares lost more than 5 percent on reports that the company has started talks on plans to raise up to 200 billion yen through a public issue of stocks.
On the economic front, an index measuring corporate service prices in January was down 0.2 percent on year in January, standing at 95.4, the Bank of Japan said Monday. That matched forecasts following the 0.4 percent contraction in December.
On a monthly basis, corporate service prices were down 0.4 percent after rising 0.2 percent in the previous month.
Among the individual components, prices for transportation and other services were up - while prices for information systems and advertising services were down.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 94 yen range in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 94.14 to the dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are all trading higher, while Taiwan is down marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended notably higher on Friday, due largely on bargain hunting. A positive reaction to the quarterly results from Hewlett-Packard too contributed significantly to the upmove.
The major averages ended the session at their best levels of the day. The Dow rose 120 points or 0.9 percent to 14,000.6, the Nasdaq jumped 30.3 points or 1 percent to 3,161.8 and the S&P 500 advanced 13.2 points or 0.9 percent to 1,515.6.
Major European markets too closed on a firm note Friday. While the French CAC 40 index surged up by 2.3 percent, the German DAX index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended higher on Friday, mostly on bargain hunting, tracking gains in global equity markets after some economic data from Europe showed German business confidence improved more than expected in February.
Crude for April delivery gained $0.29 or 0.3 percent, to close at $93.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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