CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Asian stock markets are mostly sluggish on Thursday, with investors looking for direction following a flat close on Wall Street overnight.
Amid a lack of market-moving economic news, investors are mostly seen tracking corporate earnings reports. Though some of the markets are off their early lows, buying interest is somewhat subdued.
In the Australian market, mining, energy, financial, property trusts and consumer discretionary stocks are weak.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is down 29.1 points or 0.5 percent at 5,622.1. The broader All Ordinaries index is at 5,619.5, down 29.4 points or 0.5 percent from previous close.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank are down 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac (WBK) are little changed from previous closing prices. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is declining 0.8 percent and Bank of Queensland is down marginally.
Among the top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP) is down marginally, Rio Tinto (RIO) is declining 0.6 percent, Newcrest Mining is lower by 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals is down 1.6 percent.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy are modestly lower. Caltex Australia and Santos are declining 1.2 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively, while Oil Search is flat.
Perpetual is declining by over 4 percent and Navitas is lower by about 3.2 percent. WorleyParsons is down 2.8 percent.
Alumina (AWC), Metcash, Sims Metal Management, Asciano, ALS, Iluka Resources, Aristocrat Leisure, Mineral Resources and Stockland are down 1 to 2 percent.
Nine Entertainment is down nearly 4 percent. The company reported a full-year profit of A$58 million, down 95 percent from previous year.
Qantas is rising over 6.5 percent despite reporting a full-year net loss of $2.8 billion. The company announced that it would separate its domestic and international arms.
Ramsay Healthcare is up 1.5 percent after lifting full-year profit by about 14 percent. Henderson Group, Primary Healthcare and Transpacific Industries Group are also notably higher.
In economic news, new home sales in Australia declined in July, after increasing in the previous month, data from the Housing Industry Association showed Thursday.
Seasonally adjusted new home sales fell 5.7 percent month-over-month in July. The decline was driven by a 4.7 percent drop in the sales of detached houses and a 10.9 percent fall in the sales of multi-unit houses.
Meanwhile, a report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed total new capital expenditure in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent on quarter in Q2, coming in at A$37.646 billion. That beat forecasts for a decline of 0.9 percent following the 4.2 percent contraction in the previous three months.
On a yearly basis, total capex dipped 4.0 percent. Building capex added 2.0 percent on quarter but fell 0.7 percent on year, while equipment capex lost 0.9 percent on quarter and 10.1 percent on year.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened slightly higher against the U.S. dollar. The local unit is currently trading at US$0.9359, up 0.3 percent from Wednesday's close of US$0.9332.
The Japanese stock market drifted lower with a slightly weaker yen and the overnight flat close on Wall Street prompting investors to take some profits.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 81.1 points or 0.5 percent at 15,453.7 at the end of the morning session, after having declined to 15,423.9 earlier.
Tokai Carbon, Pioneer Corp., Hitachi Zosen, Kuraray Co., Fujitsu and Nisshin Steel lost 2 to 2.6 percent.
Sapporo Holdings, Fujitsu, Citizen Holdings, Japan Steel Works, Mitsui OSK Lines, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, Kansai Electric Power, Daiwa House Industry, Konica Minolta, Bank of Yokohama, Suzuki Motor, Mitsubishi Estate and Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings were down 1.5 to 2 percent at the break.
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. opened higher on likely jump in future earnings, but retreated subsequently.
Among the gainers, Furukawa Co. shares were up 4.8 percent. Nitto Denko Corp., Mitsui Mining & Smelting and Sumitomo Osaka Cement gained 2 to 2.3 percent.
Mitsui Chemicals, Shimizu Corp., Toyota Tsusho Corp., Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Tokyo Fudosan, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Oki Electric Industry and Daikin Industries also posted notable gains.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar traded in the upper 103 yen level in early deals in Tokyo. The yen is currently trading at 103.75 to the dollar, compared to Wednesday's close of 103.90 yen per dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong are modestly higher. Shanghai and New Zealand are flat, while Taiwan and Malaysia are slightly weak.
On Wall Street, stocks ended roughly flat on Wednesday with investors mostly staying away on the sidelines due to a lack of triggers.
The S&P 500 added a fraction to 2,000.12, while the Dow rose 15.3 points or less than 0.1 percent to 17,122.0 and the Nasdaq declined declined by about 1 point to 4,569.6.
Major European markets too ended little changed on Wednesday. While the Germany's DAX Index ended down 0.2 percent, the U.K.'sFTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index closed up 0.04 percent and 0.12 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended a tad higher on Wednesday, after a weekly official oil report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed crude stockpiles in the U.S. to have dropped more than expected last week.
Crude oil futures for October delivery ended up $0.02 at $93.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.