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Market Update

Asian Markets End Mostly Lower

Asian markets ended mostly lower Friday amid a flurry of data from Japan.

The Nikkei declined 0.3%. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.1% while the Hang Seng bucked the trend as it ended 0.3% higher. The Sensex slipped 0.1% while the All Ordinaries declined 0.5%.

In Japan, data showed industrial production was slightly weaker than-expected as output fell 2.5% in April after rising 0.7% in March.

Consumer spending data showed prices rose at their fastest pace in April since 1991, rising 3.2% from a year earlier. The government had increased its sales tax rate from 5% to 8% from April 1. Household spending also fell 4.6% compared to the last year.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6% for the third straight month.

Yet another report showed housing starts fell 3.3% year-over-year in April, smaller than expectations for a decline of 8.4%. For the quarter, housing starts fell to 69,400, marking three consecutive months of decline. Annualized housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted 906,000 in April, beating expectations of 863,000.

In Australia, data showed private sector credit issued to consumers and businesses rose slightly more-than-expected to a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in April.

Economic data is also due from China over the weekend including its official manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index.

Stocks on the Move

Softbank shares gained 1.5% as a media report cited sources as saying Deutsche Telekom had given its preliminary approval of the purchase of T-Mobile US by the Japanese company’s Sprint unit.

Astellas Pharma was up 0.8% on a report it is likely to offer a dividend increase each year through 2018.

Toshiba was up a percent even as S&P removed its Negative outlook on the company’s debt rating.

Sony was down 0.6% while Fujitsu fell 1.9%. Sharp was up 0.7% while Mitsubishi Heavy ended flat.

The Hang Seng stayed in positive territory ahead of the three-day Dragon Boat holiday weekend. Tencent fell 1.4%. China Unicom was up 1.9% while China Telecom gained 1% and HC International added 4.5%. Boyaa Interactive was up 2.6%.

The Sensex ended marginally lower as investors waited for cues from the GDP data due later in the day.

M&M gained 4.4% after the company reported forecast-beating earnings, although that was due in part to a one-time gain.

SBI was down 2.2% while HDFC Bank and Tata Motors both ended 2% lower.

HFDC, Maruti Suzuki, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, and Hindalco all ended lower in a range between 1% and 1.9%.

Cipla ended 3% higher after results. HUL led gainers, up 7.9% followed by NTPC, up 5%. ONGC was up a percent, also after results.

Outside the Sensex, defense stocks were up after a media report India’s new government was considering introducing 100% foreign direct investment in the sector.

Aussies miners sank as spot iron-ore prices hit a fresh 20-month low.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shares were down 1.3% each while Fortescue Metals fell 2.9%. Atlas Iron weakened 4.9%. BlueScope Steel also gave up 4%.

Australand Property Group advanced 2.1% while Stockland edged up 0.3%. A Wall Street Journal report said Stockland would not sweeten its bid for the former even as Australand hiked its operating profit estimates.