CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly trading lower on Monday, with investors looking for direction following a flat close on Wall Street last Friday amid uncertainty about the Fed interest rate outlook. Activity is mostly stock-specific in the region, with corporate earnings reports setting the trend.
The Australian market is trading slightly lower, with investors looking for direction following Friday's flat close on Wall Street.
Mining and financial stocks are lower, while energy stocks are moving up. Property trusts, healthcare and consumer discretionary stocks are mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 13.5 points or 0.2 percent at 5,632.1. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,630.1, down 10.4 points or 0.2 percent from previous close.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac (WBK) are down 0.3 to 0.6 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is down nearly a percent, while Bank of Queensland is down marginally.
Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Newcrest Mining are down 1 to 1.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is lower by 1.6 percent.
In the energy sector, Oil Search is up 0.7 percent, Origin Energy is adding 1.8 percent, Santos is up 0.3 percent and Woodside Petroleum is marginally higher.
Caltex Australia is moving up 5.2 percent. Caltex reported a slight increase in first-half net profit and said it would cut 350 jobs in a restructure.
BlueScope Steel is down more than 13 percent after it reported a full-year net loss of $A82.4 million.
Recall Holdings is lower by over 5 percent. Sims Metal Management, AGL Energy, Arrium and Fairfax Media are down 2.2 to 3.3 percent. Tatts Group, WorleyParsons, Mineral Resources and Scentre Group are also notably lower.
Meanwhile, Orora is gaining 8.7 percent. Ioof Holdings is up nearly 6 percent and GrainCorp is advancing 3.7 percent.
Metcash, REA Group, Flight Centre Travel Group and Amcor are up 1.3 to 2 percent.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weak against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at US$0.9310, down from Friday's close of US$0.9325.
The Japanese market edged higher, with a stronger greenback prompting investors to indulge in some buying.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 30.4 points or 0.2 percent at 15,569.6 at the end of the morning session, after having advanced to 15,611.9 earlier.
Casio Computer and Pioneer Corp. moved up by around 3.5 percent. Dainippon Screen Manufacturing, Yaskawa Electric, Unitika, Mitsumi Electric, Alps Electric, Credit Saison, Oki Electric Industry, NTN Corp., Tokuyama Corp., Taiheiyo Cement, Kao Corp., and Mitsubishi Motors gained 1.5 to 3 percent.
Shiseido Co., Showa Denko KK, Fujifilm Holdings, Olympus Corp., Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Sapporo Holdings, TDK Corp. and Shimizu Corp. also posted strong gains.
Among the losers, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. shares declined nearly 9 percent on reports that Roche Holding AG, which holds a 62 percent stake in Chugai, has decided not to bid for the remaining stake.
Nisshin Steel lost 2.6 percent. Nichirei Corp., NH Foods, Yahoo Japan Corp., Okuma Corp., Kansai Electric Power, Tokio Marine Holdings, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Dowa Holdings and Chubu Electric Power were down 1 to 2.2 percent at the break.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the lower 104 yen-range in early deals in Tokyo, hitting a four and half month high at 104.27 yen. The yen is currently trading at 104.16 to the dollar, against Friday's close of 103.76 yen per dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia Pacific region, Hong Kong and Shanghai are trading notably lower. Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan are also trading weak. New Zealand and Singapore are up with modest gains, while South Korea is up marginally.
On Wall Street, stocks ended roughly flat on Friday as a highly anticipated speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen did not provide any meaningful hints about the outlook for interest rates.
While the Nasdaq inched up 6.5 points or 0.1 percent to 4,538.6, the Dow dipped 38.3 points or 0.2 percent to 17,001.2 and the S&P 500 edged down by about 4 points or 0.2 percent to 1,988.4.
Major European markets ended lower on Friday. While the U.K.'sFTSE 100 index closed just below the unchanged line, the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index dropped by 0.7 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended lower on Friday on demand growth concerns, despite some recent upbeat economic data out of the U.S. and a bigger than expected decline in U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week. Renewed concerns of a slowdown in China and the resumption of oil shipments from Libya weighed on crude oil, with worries centered around an oversupply situation.
Crude oil futures for October delivery ended down $0.31 or 0.3 percent at $93.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.