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Market Update

Asian Stocks Mostly Higher; Nikkei Falls

Asian markets were trading mixed with Japanese and Australian stocks extending losses amid continued uncertainty over the Fed Reserve's monetary policy, and downbeat Chinese data.

The Nikkei dropped 2.8% at the time of writing to a fresh six-week low while Australia's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries eased 0.3%.

Elsewhere, Mumbai's Sensex was flat at 9:30 a.m. local time but the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng logged modest gains of 0.3% and 0.5% respectively.

Investors continued to fret the U.S. Federal Reserve would roll back its stimulus measures in the near future following recent positive U.S. data. 

Meanwhile, disappointing Chinese data added to the cautious sentiment. Data released showed industrial activity in the world's second largest economy declined for the first time in seven months during May as a result of lower domestic and international demand. HSBC's manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 49.2 in May from 50.4 in April.

However, official reports gave a conflicting view -- the country's official PMI climbed to a more-than-expected 50.8 in May from 50.6 in April.

In more economic reports, data released in Australia showed retail sales increased less than expected previous month, adding a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in May after posting a decline of 0.4% in April.

Stocks on the move

Tokyo-listed financials were under heavy selling pressure. Brokerage houses Daiwa Securities and Nomura Holding fell 9.2% and 7.6% respectively while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial lost 4.2%.

Exporters were also on the slide. Top losers included Sharp Corp. (-8.8%), Sony Corp. (-5.5%) and Mazda Motor Corp. (-5.5%).

Realty firms, shipping companies and resources stocks added to the broad market losses.  Sumitomo Realty & Development Co. fell over 4%, Fuji Heavy Industries lost 5.1% and Kawasaki Kishen K.K. erased nearly 5%.

Among retailers, index heavyweight Fast Retailing pulled back 5.6% while J. Front Retailing Co. Ltd. lost 2.3%.

Retail firms in Sydney were also mostly lower after lacklustre retail sales data. David Jones eased 0.4%, Myer Holdings slipped 0.2% and Woolworths Ltd. gave up 0.6%.

Mining stocks were trading with sharp cuts after conflicting industrial activity data from China prompted investors to turn cautious. China is Australia's largest export destination and a decline in industrial demand for metals hurts Australia's miners.

Index leader BHP Billiton was down 2% while close-rival Rio Tinto fell 2.5%. Fortescue Metals Group lost 2.5% as well.

But banking firms help curtail some of these losses. NAB added 1..8%,. Westpac Banking rose around 3% and ANB tacked on a percent.

In Hong Kong, developers were in the green after reports said a group including a prominent Chinese developer had purchased a 40% stake in General Motors building in Manhattan.

Soho China Ltd. added 0.3% after the family of the company's chief executive Zhang Xin along with a Brazilian company completed a deal to pay more than $700 million to Middle East-based sovereign wealth fund to acquire a stake in the GM building.

Among others, China Resources Land rose 2.5%, China Overseas Land & Investment added 1.5% and Sun Hung Kai Properties edged up 0.3%.

On the mainland, Gemdale Corp. moved 2.7% higher while Poly Real Estate Group rose 1.8%.

Export-focused firms in Hong Kong were also higher, offsetting losses in other sectors. Li & Fung climbed 1.7%, Esprit Holdings notched up over 2% while Belle International Holdings edged up 0.3%.

In Mumbai, IT-services exporters found their way up on top of the charts. Infosys rallied over 5% after the company re-appointed N R Narayana Murthy as its executive chairman to help put the company back on track to higher growth.

That optimism rubbed off on close rival Wipro as well., which added 1.5%.

Some defensives also found support, but others lagged behind offsetting the gains on the 30-share benchmark index.

Telecom giant Bharti Airtel added 2.1%, Dr. Reddys Lab enhanced 1.4% and Cipla climbed over 1% but losses in auto stocks, and energy firms  weighed.

Bajaj Auto skidded 3.3%, Maruti Suzuki followed next, down 2.7% while Hero MotoCorp reversed 1.8% after data showed sluggish auto sales for May.