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Market Update

Asian Markets Sluggish After Data

Asian markets finished on either side of the flat-line on the first trading day of the new year.

Sydney's All Ordinaries ended up 0.3% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished a choppy session up 0.4%.

On the other side, Mumbai's BSE Sensex, which was trading higher earlier in the session, gave up early gains to end 1.4% down.

Mainland China's Shanghai Composite, meanwhile, closed 0.3% lower.

Japan's Nikkei remained closed.

Investors were reacting to manufacturing data released in China today that showed industrial activity in the world's second largest economy grew at a slightly slower pace in December, with export orders declining for the first time since August.

The final print of December HSBC manufacturing purchasing managers' index came in at a three-month low of 50.5, unchanged from the flash reading released earlier this month. 

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in economic activity and vice-versa. 

Although in line with expectations, the December reading came in lower than the final print of 50.8 in November -- which undermined investor confidence during the Asian session.

Stocks on the Move

Metal players in Hong Kong were mostly lower. Angang Steel lost 1.7%, Jiangxi Copper erased around 1% and Aluminium Corp. of China gave up 1.1%.

Among oil stocks CNOOC lost 0.3%, whereas China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. fell 1%. China Shenhua Energy dropped over 2%.

In the financials segment, ICBC fell 0.8%, Agricultural Bank of China slipped 0.8% while China Life Insurance retreated 1.5%.

Retailers, however, were on the other side of the ladder. Esprit Holdings soared over 4% while Belle International Holdings edged up 0.5%.

In Mumbai, stocks lost momentum in the final hours of trading as gains fizzled out amid profit booking. 

Top losers on the 30-share benchmark index were BHEL, Tata Power, Coal India, L&T and Bharti Airtel, down in the range of 3% to 3.5%. 

Among banks, SBI eased 1.3%, HDFC Bank lost 1.2% while ICICI Bank fell over 2%.

On the other side, Australian miners were the star performers of the day. 

Gold mining companies found solid support following the uptick in gold futures. OceanaGold Corp. bounced over 8%, Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. zoomed over 10% while Newcrest Mining surged more than 8%.

Among others, diversified iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto improved 1.9% and around 1% respectively, while index leader BHP Billiton added a modest 0.6%.

Adding to the gains, retailers bounced back from early losses with Wesfarmers Ltd., Woolworths Ltd. and Myer Holdings adding around 02% to 0.4% each.