(RTTNews) - Asian stock markets are mostly in positive territory on Thursday with investors going in for some bargain hunting after recent sharp losses. However, amid a slew of earnings reports and doubts about sustainability of the global economic recovery, the mood remains quite cautious in the region.

Bank and consumer staples stocks are among the notable gainers in the Australian market. Mining and energy stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to 4,347.3 in early trades but drifted lower subsequently, is currently up 21.9 points or 0.5% at 4,342. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 19.4 points or 0.5% at 4,376.

Among bank stocks, Westpac is up 1.3% and ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are trading modestly higher, while National Australia Bank is down with a modest loss. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is down 0.3% and Bank of Queensland is gaining about 0.5%.

Among mining stocks, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are trading lower by 0.6% and 0.9% respectively. Newcrest Mining is gaining about 1% and Fortescue Metals is up with a gain of 1.6%.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy are trading flat. Oil Search is down 0.5%, while Santos is down marginally despite strong earnings.

Santos Ltd.'s first-half profit almost doubled, with higher prices and lower exploration costs boosting the result. The company reported a net profit of A$198 million for the first half, up 94% from A$102 million in the prior corresponding period. Underlying net profit for the period was A$210 million, more than double the A$95 million in the equivalent period of 2009.

Woolworths Ltd shares are up over 4% following the company posting a 10.1% rise in net profit to A$2.02 billion in the 52 weeks ending June 27, 2010, up from A$1.84 billion in the prior year.

Insurance Australia Group reported a near 50% decline in net profit to A$91 million for the 2010 financial year. The insurer had posted a net profit of A$181 million last year. The stock is up 0.6% over its previous closing price.

Skilled Group Ltd has suffered a 55% fall in annual profit to A$12.70 million. The stock is trading 0.8% down at present.

Ramsay Health Care Ltd. has reported a net profit of A$148.28 million for the 12 months to June 30, up 39.3% from A$106.47 million in the prior year. Operating revenue increased 5.4% to A$3.40 billion in 2009-2010. The stock is trading modestly higher.

Macquarie Telecom Group Ltd shares are up over 5% following the company reporting a 141% surge in full-year net profit. The company said net profit for the 12 months to June 30, 2010 came in at A$17.93 million, compared with A$7.45 million in the prior corresponding period.

On the economic front, a key leading economic index for Australia was up 0.1% at 115.9 in June, the Conference Board said Thursday. That follows a 0.4% increase in May and a flat reading in April. The Conference Board's coincident index also rose in June, up 0.3% to 115.4. It added 0.2% in May and 0.1% in April.

According to a report from the Australian Statistic Bureau, Australian private sector industries' capital expenditure between April and June fell a seasonally adjusted 4% compared to the preceding quarter. It followed a downwardly revised 1% fall in the previous quarter. Total capital expenditure amounted to A$26.2 billion during the three-month period.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened marginally lower after losing more than one U.S. cent due to risk aversion in Europe and the U.S.. In early trades, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8840-US$0.8842, down slightly from Wednesday's close of US$0.8852-US$0.8855. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8832 to the U.S. dollar.

The South Korean market, which drifted down after an initial upward move, is trading marginally up now with investors indulging in some bargain hunting in select blue chip stocks after three successive days of losses.

The benchmark KOSPI index, which declined to 1,731.4 after initially touching 1,744, is currently up 4.2 points or 0.23% at 1,739.

Among technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is up 3.7% on strong buying at the counter. The stock is up on reports the company has acquired shares of its Chinese unit from partner Numonyx. LG Display LCD is up 2.6% and Samsung Electronics is gaining about 0.8%, while LG Electronics is down with a modest loss.

In the automobile space, Ssangyong Motor rose sharply in early trades on reports India's Mahindra & Mahindra is likely to complete acquisition of the company in about four months. However, due to lack of support at higher levels, the stock has drifted lower and is currently down in negative territory with a modest loss.

Kia Motor and Hyundai Motor are trading stronger by 2% and 2.3% respectively. Airline stocks Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are hovering around their previous closing prices.

Among bank stocks, Woori Finance, KB Financial and Shinhan Financial are trading marginally lower, while Korea Exchange Bank is up nearly a percent.

Shipping stock STX Pan Ocean is down 1.2% despite the company winning a contract worth 85.4 billion won, to build thee ice-breaking tugs for Kazakhstan's JSC Circle Marine Invest. Among other stocks in the shipping space, Hyundai Heavy Industries is up 0.6%, Daewoo Shipbuilding is trading higher by about 1% and Samsung Heavy Industries is up with a gain of 0.5%.

Among steel stocks, POSCO is down marginally, while Hyundai Steel is up 3%. Oil stocks are exhibiting weakness, while telecommunications stocks are trading mixed.

The Japanese market is up with modest gains after a somewhat shaky display earlier in the day. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which faltered after rising to around 8,900, is currently up 31.6 points or 0.3% at 8,877.

Mining, precision instruments, chemicals and shipbuilding stocks are trading higher. Automobile and banking stocks are trading mixed.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, India and New Zealand are up with modest gains. Malaysia and Singapore are up marginally, while Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan are trading weak. Markets across the region had ended mostly lower on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks rebounded after early losses and ended modestly higher on Wednesday, despite daunting figures on new home sales and durable goods orders. The major averages all turned to the upside in the second half of the day amid some bargain hunting following Tuesday's seven-week closing lows.

The Dow gained 19.6 points or 0.2% to close at 10,060.1, the Nasdaq advanced by 17.8 points or 0.8% to 2,141.5 and the S&P 500 ended up 3.5 points or 0.3% at 1,055.3.

Major European markets ended lower on Wednesday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index lost 0.9% and 0.6% respectively, while the French CAC 40 index ended 1.2% down.

Crude oil reversed early losses and settled higher on Wednesday, in spite of a government report that revealed a bigger-than-expected weekly increase in US crude stockpiles. Bargain hunters emerged after oil prices touched a three-month low early in the session, and a weaker greenback also helped the recovery.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled up US$0.89 at US$72.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, bouncing back from an intra-day low of US$70.76.

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