CANBERA (Alliance News) - Asian markets are mostly trading lower on Friday with investors treading cautiously amid worries about the ongoing conflict in Iraq. The overnight lackluster close on Wall Street and some profit taking are also contributing to the weakness in some of the markets in the region.
The Australian stock market is trading lower, with investors taking some profits after recent gains. Financial, energy, healthcare and consumer staples stocks are weak. Mining and property trusts stocks are mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 21.6 points or 0.4% at 5,446.6. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,426.8, down 19.6 points or 0.4% from its previous close.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are trading lower by 0.3 to 0.6%. Bank of Queensland is down marginally, while Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is advancing 0.7%.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Fortescue Metals are lower by 0.7 to 1%, while Newcrest Mining is surging up 4.3%.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum is up marginally. Oil Search is down slightly, Origin Energy is losing about 0.6% and Caltex Australia is declining 2.5%.
Santos is lower by 2.2% after reports that Santos and its French partner GDF Suez have scrapped plans to build a multibillion dollar floating gas plant off Darwin's coast, citing an insufficient rate of return, risk and capital exposure as reasons for exploring other options to the planned floating LNG facility.
JB Hi-Fi is declining nearly 3.5%. David Jones, Alumina (AWC), Downer EDI, Boral, Henderson Group, Seek, REA Group and Mecash are lower by 1.5 to 2.3%.
Harvey Norman Holdings, Iluka Resources, Adelaide Brighton, Recall Holdings, Toll Holdings, DuluxGroup and Perpetual are also notably lower.
Meanwhile, Regis Resources is moving up nearly 4%.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower against the US dollar. The local unit is currently trading at USD0.9404, down from Thursday's close of USD0.9423.
After opening lower due to some profit taking, the Japanese market edged higher as buying resumed at several front line counters.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which declined to 15,327 in early trades, was up 48.3 points or 0.3% at 15,409.5 when the morning session ended.
Sumitomo Electric Industries gained over 3%. Shimizu Corp., Tokyo Electric Power, Mitsubishi Estate, Tokyo Tatemono, Konica Minolta, Kajima Corp., Unitika, Tokyu Fudosan Holdings Corp. and NGK Insulators were up 2 to 3%.
Isuzu Motors gained nearly 2.5% thanks to a rating upgrade by JP Morgan Chase. Toshiba Corp., Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Japan Steel Works, Mitsui Fudosan, Teijin, Central Japan Railway and Panasonic Corp. (PC) also rose sharply.
Among the losers, Amada Co. declined more than 2.5%. Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, Dowa Holdings, Bank of Yokohama, J Front Retailing, Hokuetsu Kishu Paper and Konami Corp. were down 1 to 1.6% at the break.
In the currency market, the US dollar traded around 102 yen in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 101.89 to the US dollar, against Thursday's close of 101.78 yen per dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong and Indonesia are modestly higher. South Korea and New Zealand are notably lower, while Shanghai, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are down marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended roughly flat on Thursday, after a lackluster session amid uncertainty about the outlook for the markets after recent upward trend.
Despite the lackluster performance, the S&P 500 still managed to tick up to another new record closing high, finishing at 1,959.5 with a gain of 2.5 points or 0.1%. The Dow crept up 14.8 points or 0.1% to 16,921.5, while the Nasdaq ended down 3.5 points or 0.1% at 4,359.3.
Major European markets closed higher on Thursday. While the UK'sFTSE 100 index gained 0.4%, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index both advanced by 0.7%.
US crude oil snapped a three-day loss to end higher on Thursday, following the deteriorating situation in Iraq with increasing concerns over disruption in oil supplies after the ongoing conflict between militants and government forces intensified. Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC have carried out a "major evacuation" of employees from Iraq, OPEC's second-largest oil producer, after insurgents seized cities north of Baghdad.
Crude for July delivery ended up USD0.46 or 0.5% at USD106.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.