Asian Markets Trade Weak On Geopolitical Concerns

By RTT News, 
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(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading notably lower on Friday, tracking cues from Wall Street where the major averages plunged overnight amid geopolitical concerns and on some weak economic data.

However, data showing an improvement in Chinese manufacturing activity in July has pulled some of the markets in the region from their lower levels.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 80.7 points or 1.4 percent at 5,552.2. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,543.1, down 80.0 points or 1.4 percent from previous close.

All the sectoral indices are down in negative territory, losing between 1.1 percent and 2.0 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are down 1.1 to 1.6 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are declining 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Newcrest Mining are declining 0.8 to 1.6 percent, while Fortescue Metals is tumbling 3.5 percent.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Caltex Australia are down 13 to 2.0 percent, while Origin Energy is losign about 0.6 percent.

ResMed Inc (RMD) is down nearly 4 percent. Alumina (AWC), Henderson Group, Arrium, Downer EDI, Rea Group, Challenger and Echo Entertainment Group are lower by 2.5 to 3.6 percent.

Perpetual is down nearly 2.5 percent. Dexus Property Group, Goodman Group, CSL, CFS Retail Property Trust, Boral, JB Hi-Fi, Mineral Resources and Westfield Corporation are also losing over 2 percent.

On the economic front, the manufacturing sector in Australia expanded in July, the Australia Industry Group said on Friday in its Performance of Manufacturing Index.

For the first time in nine months, the reading moved above the boom-or-bust score of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. Among the individual components of the survey, new orders and employment - two of the most significant factors - both expanded in July.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar declined to a near two-month low against the U.S. dollar, following a sell-off in global equity markets. The local unit is currently trading at US$0.9292, down 0.3 percent from Thursday's close of US$0.9320.

After opening sharply down on Wall Street cues, the Japanese market regained some lost ground, with some upbeat earnings reports and data showing an improvement in Chinese factory activity triggering buying at lower levels.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to 15,501.2 in early trades, was down 52.3 points or 0.3 percent at 15,568.5 at the end of the morning session.

Yahoo Japan, Okuma Corp. and NTN Corp. lost 5 to 7 percent. Toyo Seikan Group, Asahi Glass, Nippon Sheet Glass and Shiseido Co. declined 3 to 4 percent.

Mitsui OSK Lines lost about 2.6 percent following the company revising downward its first half earnings outlook.

Kyocera Corp. lost over 3 percent on disappointing quarterly earnings. Nisshin Steel, Marui Group, Sumitomo Chemical, Nippon Electric Glass, Olympus Corp. and Hitachi were down 2 to 3 percent at the break.

Among the gainers, NGK Insulators moved up over 8 percent. NH Foods gained 6.5 percent. Sony Corp. (SNE) surged up more than 6 percent after the company doubled its April - June operating profit.

Panasonic Corp. (PC) gained 1.8 percent after it reported a 28 percent jump in operating profit for the April - June quarter.

Chubu Electric Power, Nitto Denko KK, Mazda Motor, Nippon Kayaku Co., TDK Corp., Alps Electric, Taisei Corp., Ajinomoto Co Inc., Minebea Co. and Toyobo Co gained 1 to 4 percent.

In economic news, manufacturing activity in Japan expanded at a slower pace in July as output contracted, results of a survey by Markit Economics showed Friday. The Markit/JMMA purchasing managers' index, or PMI, fell to 50.5 in July from 51.5 in June, indicating weakened activity though the index remained above the no-change mark of 50.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 102 yen level in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 102.88 to the U.S. dollar, little changed from Thursday's close of 102.86 yen per dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand are trading notably lower. Malaysia and Hong Kong are down with modest losses and South Korea is down marginally, while Shanghai is up slightly.

On Wall Street, stocks ended sharply lower on Thursday, due to lingering geopolitical concerns amid the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza as well as on news about Argentina missing a debt payment.

A report showing a more than expected increase in U.S. employee compensations costs and worries about the risk of eurozone deflation too contributed to the weakness in the markets.

The steep losses on the day pulled the Dow down to a two-month closing low, while the S&P 500 ended the session at its worst closing level in well over a month.

The Dow plummeted 317.1 points or 1.9 percent to 16,563.3, a two-month closing low. The Nasdaq tumbled 93.1 points or 2.1 percent to 4,369.8 and the S&P 500 plunged 39.4 points or 2 percent to 1,930.7.

Major European markets also closed notably lower. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index dropped by 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index tumbled by 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil plunged to end lower for a fourth straight session on Thursday, on demand growth concerns after some dismal economic data from the U.S. with initial claims for unemployment benefits rising and slower growth in manufacturing activity in the Chicago area.

Crude oil futures for September delivery ended down $2.10 or 2.1 percent at $98.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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