(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading notably higher on Wednesday, with investors tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages moved up overnight following a positive reaction by investors to the U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen's Congressional testimony. Better than expected Chinese trade data too appears to be contributing to the positive mood in the region.
In the Australian market, mining and property trusts stocks are the leading gainers. Industrial, energy and telecommunications stocks are also trading firm, while financial and consumer discretionary stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 41.2 points or 0.8 percent at 5,295.7. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 5306.7, up 39.4 points or 0.7 percent from its previous close.
Among the top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is up 1.6 percent, Rio Tinto (RIO) is trading higher by 2.2 percent and Fortescue Metals is up 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is losing about 3.7 percent.
In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are trading flat, while ANZ Bank is up 0.7 percent. Commonwealth Bank of Australian reported a half-year profit of A$4.27 billion, up 14 percent on the previous year.
Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are up 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
Oz Minerals is up nearly 13 percent despite announcing a loss of A$295 million for the 12 months to December 2013, compared to profit of A$152 million recorded for 2012.
Boral is trading nearly 10 percent up. Arrium, Carsales.Com, Computershare and Lend Lease Group are trading higher by 4.5 to 5 percent.
Regis Resources, Cochlear, Orica, Bluescope Steel, Stockland, Orora, Aristocrat Leisure, AGL Energy, Seek and Treasury Wine Estates are also up sharply.
Meanwhile, Primary Healthcare, CSL and Downer EDI are trading weak, losing 2.3 to 3.3 percent.
On the economic front, consumer confidence in Australia declined in February by 3.0 percent from January, according to survey results released Wednesday by Westpac Bank. The Consumer Confidence Index fell to a reading of 100.2, compared to 103.3 in January.
Westpac said the decline was largely tied to concerns about future economic conditions, especially in light of recent decisions by automakers to halt manufacturing in Australia.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar hit a one month high against the U.S. dollar. But it gave up some ground subsequently and was hovering around US$0.9020 at noon, up 0.2 percent from Tuesday's close of US$0.9003.
The Japanese market surged higher on strong buying at several counters from across various sectors. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 138.2 points or 0.9 percent at 14,856.5 when the morning session ended.
Hino Motors, GS Yuasa Corp., Sumitomo Metal Mining, Bridgestone Corp., Tokyo Electron, NKSJ Holdings, Nitto Boseki and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding gained 4 to 6 percent.
Denso Corp., MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, Tokio Marine Holdings, Dainippon Screen Manufacturing, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Nippon Express, Komatsu, Hitachi Zosen, Toyobo Co., Mazda Motor, Yokohoma Rubber and Kansai Electric Power all moved up by over 3 percent.
Sony Corp. ( SNE ) was up nearly 3 percent on reports the company may provide more camera components to Apple Inc. for a new iPhone.
Nissan Motor was up nearly 3 percent on strong earnings and Honda Motor was trading 2.8 percent up following a more than 30 percent jump in January sales in China.
Among the losers, Yamato Holdings Co. was down more than 4 percent following a rating downgrade of the stock by Nomura Holdings Inc.
Nippon Meat Packers, Daikin Industries, KDDI Corp. and Nippon Soda are down 2 to 3 percent. Kubota Corp., Konami Corp., Trend Micro and Nisshin Steel Holdings were also down with notable losses.
On the economic front, core machine orders in Japan plunged a seasonally adjusted 15.7 percent on month in December, the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday. That was well shy of forecasts for a decline of 4.0 percent following the 9.3 percent jump in November.
On a yearly basis, core machine orders added 6.7 percent - also missing expectations for a jump of 17.4 percent following the 16.6 percent gain in the previous month.
For the fourth quarter of 2013, core machine orders added 1.5 percent after rising 4.3 percent in Q3. For all of 2013, orders climbed 5.8 percent on year.
According to a report from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the index measuring tertiary industry activity in Japan was down a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent on month in December, coming in at 99.8. That missed expectations for a decline of 0.3 percent following the upwardly revised 0.8 percent increase in November.
Industries that saw activity decline included retail trade, postal service, finance, real estate, personal services and utilities. Industries that saw activity increase included communications, medical care, scientific research and compound services.
Meanwhile, the M2 money stock in Japan jumped 4.4 percent on year in January, the Bank of Japan said on Wednesday, coming in at 866.5 trillion yen. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 4.2 percent following the upwardly revised 4.3 percent increase in December.
The M3 money stock gained 3.5 percent on year to 1,178.6 trillion yen - also topping forecasts for an increase of 3.4 percent, which would have been unchanged from the previous month. The L money stock was up an annual 4.4 percent to 1,536.4 trillion yen after rising 4.5 percent a month earlier.
In the currency market, the yen is hovering at around 102.55 a dollar. After trading at around 102.60 in early deals, the yen had regained some ground and rose to 102.41 before retreating again.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan are trading notably higher. Singapore is up with modest gains, while Malaysia and Shanghai are trading weak.
On Wall Street, stocks ended sharply higher on Tuesday, with traders reacting positively to new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's first day of Congressional testimony. She predicted that the Fed would continue to reduce the pace of asset purchases in measured steps at future meetings but noted that purchases are not on a preset course.
Yellen also reiterated that a highly accommodative policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchases end.
While the Dow surged up 193 points or 1.2 percent to 15,994.8, the Nasdaq climbed 42.9 points or 1 percent to 4,191 and the S&P 500 jumped 19.9 points or 1.1 percent to 1,819.8.
Major European markets too closed on a firm note on Tuesday. While the German DAX index climbed up 2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the French CAC 40 index advanced by 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil snapped a five-day gain to end lower on Tuesday, with investors awaiting the official inventories data due Wednesday. Crude for March delivery ended down $0.12 or 0.1 percent at $99.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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