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Asia Pacific Market: Stocks end mostly down on profit taking, ahead of China economic data

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Asia Pacific bellwether shares were mostly lower after a choppy session on Thursday, January 17, 2013, as investors chose to cash out some gains off the table after the recent upside and ahead of the announcement of Chinese data on Friday.

Profit taking pressure front seated today in the broader markets amidst renewed uncertainty about global economic growth outlook. Wariness about pace of global economic growth outlook revived after the World Bank cut its forecast for global economic growth in 2013 and Germany's cut in its economic growth forecast for this year.

The World Bank has cut its global growth forecast for 2013 and is now projecting that the world economy will expand 2.4%, down from the previous forecast of 3%, blaming an unexpectedly sluggish recovery in developed countries for holding back global growth.

Germany's government cut its growth forecast for this year on Wednesday, saying the economy will grow just 0.4% in 2013, down from its previous forecast for 1% growth. The announcement came after preliminary data on Tuesday showed that the German economy contracted 0.5% in the fourth quarter.

Traders were also opted risk off stance ahead of Chinese economic data on Friday. China will post several economic reports on Friday, including fourth-quarter GDP, December industrial output, retail sales and house prices, which will offer clues on the health of Asia's biggest economy.

Markets were currently struggling to find momentum amid continued concerns about Europe, US government spending, and elevated valuations have taken all the wind from the markets spinnaker. Along with other global markets, Asia shares have gained solidly over the last three months.

In the Asia pacific markets, the Japanese share market managed to hold gain line today, helped by gains in carmakers, machinery makers and other blue-chip exporters after yen reversed gains against the greenback and other major currencies. The Nikkei Average rose 9.20 points from 10,600.44 to finish at 10,609.64, while broader Topix index accumulated 2.35 points to close at 890.46.

Shares of large-cap exporters were modest higher in Tokyo after the dollar appreciated near the mid 87 yen mark while the euro was changing hands around upper 117 yen level. Sony Corp advanced 5.7% to 1,024 yen, NEC Corp 5% to 210 yen, FANUC Corp 1.5% to 14,670 yen, and Toyota Motor Corp 1.3% to 4,210 yen. Komatsu added 1.6% to 2,302 yen. Sharp Corp rallied 7.3% to 338 yen on reports the company might sell a TV factory to Lenovo and form a China sales venture with the PC maker.

GS Yuasa Corp, a supplier of lithium-ion batteries to Boeing Co. 787 planes, slumped 5% to 305 yen on concern about demand outlook for its lithium-ion batteries after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to prove the batteries are safe. Renesas Electronics Corp. lost 1.7% after reports that the chip maker proposed to cut more than 3,000 jobs in discussions with its labor union.

In economic news in Tokyo, Japan's tertiary industry activity index fell unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Wednesday. In a report, METI said that Japanese tertiary industry activity index fell to a seasonally adjusted -0.3%, from -0.1% in the preceding month.

Australia's share market closed modest higher on Thursday, January 17, 2013, edging 20 month highs, despite a slight tick-up in Australia's unemployment rate, thanks to solid gains in top lenders and energy players. At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 18.3 points, or 0.38% higher at 4,756.6, a highest close since it finished the trading day at 4,780.2 points on May 11, 2011. The broader All Ordinaries index was up 14.7 points, or 0.31%, at 4,779.7.

Australian financial stocks were top gainer today on speculation about probable interest rate cut next month after a softer-than-expected jobs report. Shares in Westpac (WBC) were firmer 0.7% to A$26.62 while the ANZ Bank (ANZ) gained 0.8% to A$25.57 and National Australia Bank climbed 0.74% to close at A$26.04. The Commonwealth Bank added 0.27% to A$62.46.

The energy sector in general also performed strongly in Australia after Woodside Petroleum and Santos released generally upbeat production numbers today. Woodside Petroleum revealed production and revenue had risen by about 30% in 2012 to new records, because of its massive Pluto liquefied natural gas operations in Western Australia. Oil and gas company Santos revealed it was on track to meet its 2013 production forecasts after enjoying a 10% rise in 2012. Woodside shares finished steady at A$35.20, after earlier hitting an intraday high of A$35.56 during late trade. Santos finished up 0.7% higher at A$11.72. Uranium miner Paladin Energy's share closed 2.6% higher at A$1.185 after it revealed it was on track to meet full-year production targets.

On economic news from Sydney, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the national unemployment rate rising by 0.1%age points to 5.4% in December. The ABS reported the number of people employed decreased by 5,500 to 11,538,900 in December. The decrease in employment was driven by decreased full-time employment, down 13,800 people to 8,112,500 and was offset by increased part-time employment, up 8,300 people to 3,426,400. The increase in part-time employment was driven by an increase in male part-time employment.

New Zealand's share market posted modest gains today, despite broader weakness in other regional bourses, as another consumer confidence survey showed improving sentiment, especially in Auckland, even as Australian jobs data disappointed financial markets. The NZX50 rose 27.57 points, or 0.66%, to 4196.81. The biggest gain of the day in Wellington was Warehouse Group, up 3.23% to NZ$3.20, while heavyweight Fletcher Building was up 2.47% to NZ$9.11 on the back of improving economic sentiment. Turners Auctions gained 9.38% to NZ$2.10 after issuing a strong profit upgrade. Air New Zealand declined 1.17% to NZ$1.265, amid reports that Boeing's Dreamliner fleet has been grounded in the US.

South Korea's share market fell down today, with the benchmark Kospi Composite index down 0.2% to 1,974.27. Seoul index heavyweight Hyundai Motor Co gained 1% and Kia Motors Corp rose 0.7%, while Samsung Electronics Co lost 1.5%.

Mainland China's shares ended broadly lower, as investors chose to cash out some gains off the table following strong recent rally, with financial and industrial heavyweights led retreat. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index closed 25.59 points down at 2,284.91. Profit taking pressure took toll on worried the benchmark indices are in overbought after rallying over 18% since Dec.3 and renewed jitters about global economic growth outlook.

Shares of Chinese industrial companies including railway and satellite-navigation dropped steeply on profit taking after rising robustly since Dec. 4 on reports the government would promote urban development. Navigation stocks had rallied since the government announced earlier this year that buses and other transport vehicles should install the domestic Beidou Navigation Satellite System. All tour coaches, long-distance buses and vehicles that transport dangerous articles, ought to install the system. North Navigation locked 10% lower limit at 11.86 yuan. China Spacesat Co. locked 10% lower circuit at 15.80 yuan.

Chinese lenders shares declined after Standard Chartered latest report highlighted concerns that bad loans in China's banking sector are expected to increase sharply in 2013 and the central government may have to aid the sector by injecting funds in the next five years. Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co declined 0.9% to 10.03 yuan. China Merchants Bank lost 2.2% to 13.22 yuan. The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China shed 1.9% to 4.19 yuan.

Hong Kong's share market closed lackluster trading slight lower after moving zigzag in narrow range on Thursday, amidst mixed cues from offshore markets and weaker performance of mainland A-share market and other regional indices. The key Hang Seng Index dropped 17.23 points from 23,356.99 to finish today's session at 23,339.76, while Hang Seng China Enterprises Index declined 49.31 points to 11,858.21.

within the Hang Seng index, 27 out of 50 blue chips shares declined today, while remaining 17 ended higher and 6 unchanged. China Resources Power Holdings Co was biggest gainer in the index, adding 2.8% to HK$19.56, while Aluminum Corporation Of China tumbled 3.8% to HK$3.85, making it worst performer blue-chip.

Among economic news from Hong Kong, HK seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 3.4% in September - November 2012 to 3.3% in October - December 2012, data from the Census and Statistics Department showed. The underemployment rate rose from 1.4% in September - November 2012 to 1.5% in October - December 2012.

The volume of Hong Kong's re-exports of goods rose 10.5% in November 2012 over a year earlier, whereas that of domestic exports dropped 3.6%. Taken together, the volume of total exports and imports of goods raised 10.2% and 7.6%, data from the Census and Statistics Department showed. Comparing the first eleven months of 2012 with the same period in 2011, the volume of Hong Kong's re-exports of goods fell 1.1%, while that of domestic exports dropped 14.3%. Taken together, the volume of total exports of goods dropped 1.3%. On the other hand, the volume of imports of goods edged up 0.1%.

Singapore's share market retreated today, dragged by losses in shares of palm oil firm Golden Agri-Resources and as investors remained cautious ahead of Chinese economic data on Friday. The Straits Times Index fell 0.4% to 3,195.10 points. Index heavyweight Golden Agri shares fell 3.1% after J.P. Morgan downgraded the stock to 'underweight' on expectations it will miss its fourth-quarter earnings forecast. Yongnam Holdings rose 2.1% after Singapore's government said on Thursday it plans to build two new train lines and extend three.

India's share market zoomed today on the back of the price spiral witnessed by Reliance Industries shares and that of the oil marketing companies, which hit a fresh 52-week high after the OMCs were given the freedom to make 'small corrections' in diesel prices. At provisional close, the Sensex had gained 133.30 points, or 0.67%, at 19950.93. Oil & gas companies shares shot up after petroleum ministry authorized oil marketing companies (OMC) to make fuel price corrections from time to time. Telecom stocks also rallied after the Cabinet decided to slash CDMA spectrum price by 50%.

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