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Market Update

Asia Stocks Mostly Higher; Nikkei Choppy

Asian markets were trading mostly higher Friday buoyed by some strong corporate results and as Australian miners gained ground on firm commodity prices.

At the time of writing, the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries was up 0.2%, the Hang Seng rose 0.9% while the Nikkei gained 0.3% amid a choppy session ahead of the Bank of Japan’s policy statement later in the day.

On the flipside, the Shanghai Composite dropped 0.5% and the BSE Sensex retreated 0.3%.

Sentiment was positive at open, tracking positive overnight cues from Wall Street, and after a host of companies in the region reported upbeat results.

In economic news, Japan’s core consumer price index dropped for the fifth straight month in a row, coming at a worse-than-expected 0.5% lower in the previous month as compared with -0.3% in February.

Traders feared the latest deflation data could be an indication the central bank’s target of 2% inflation would not be an easy task to achieve.

Stocks on the move

Most of the stock movements in the region were earnings-related.

Japan Tobacco Inc. rose 2.6% in Tokyo after the company said it expected record full year profit for the current fiscal on the back of strength in its overseas business and the yen's weakness. 

Sony Corp edged up 0.7% as the electronic firm posted its first annual profit in five years. The company also doubled its full year profit outlook.

But most other exporters in Tokyo were trading in the red on account of the yen's strength against its global peers.

Among other perfomers on the Nikkei were steel players and retailers. Kobe Steel surged more than 5% while retailer Fast Retailing moved up over 3%.

In Hong Kong, China Unicom added over a percent after posting higher first quarter earnings.

BYD Co. Ltd. soared nearly 10% after the battery and car manufacturer's net profit increased more than four times in the first quarter.

China Life Insurance Co. was 3% after recording a 79.1% increase in first-quarter net profits.

Similarly Bank of China gained 1.7%, PetroChina Co. rose 2% and Wynn Macau added 2.8% after posting upbeat results.

In Mumbai, telecom operator Idea Cellular rose 8% after its first-quarter results topped estimates.

Among other gainers, Bharti Airtel soared over 5%, Gail India added 2.1% and Coal India enhanced over 1%.

But losses in financial stocks, IT and FMCG companies weighed on the 30-share benchmark index. Top losers included Jindal Steel (-2.5%), Mahindra & Mahindra (-2.2%), ICICI Bank (-1.9%) and TCS (-1.7%).

In Sydney, miners raced ahead as investors returned after a holiday to find commodity prices up. 

Index leader BHP Billiton gained 2.7% while Rio Tinto followed closely, up 2.4%. Gold miner Newcrest Mining bounced over 5%.

Grain Corp. vaulted over 8% after the grain exporter accepted Archer Daniel Midland Co.'s $2.9 billion takeover bid. 

But Virgin Australia Holdings fell 1% after Singapore Airlines said it lifted its stake in the Australian carrier to 19.9%. 

ResMed Inc. was also down around 1% despite posting record revenue and income in the first quarter.