Asian markets lower on weak US, UK data

Reported by AAP
Thursday, March 29, 2012
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Asian markets slipped on Thursday as more weak economic data out of the United States and Britain stoked concerns about the global economy.

Tokyo stocks fell 0.67 per cent, or 67.78 points, to 10,114.79, Sydney was 0.13 per cent lower, losing 5.6 points to end at 4,337.9, and Seoul fell 0.85 per cent, or 17.33 points, to 2,014.41.

Hong Kong shed 1.32 per cent, or 276.03 points, to 20,609.39 and Shanghai lost 1.43 per cent, or 32.72 points, to end at 2,252.16.

The losses followed a fall on Wall Street after figures from the US Commerce Department showed a slower-than-expected rise in new orders for manufactured durable goods.

That came after an index of US consumer confidence on Tuesday showed a slip, while home prices continued to fall in January.

The results - added to a cool assessment of the US economy by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke - come after a run of upbeat jobs data that had lifted hopes the recovery is picking up.

On Wednesday the Dow index fell 0.54 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.49 per cent and the Nasdaq gave up 0.49 per cent.

Eyes will now be on US unemployment claims later on Thursday, Sydney-based CMC Markets sales trader Miguel Audencial said in a note.

"One would expect that a low figure would boost the market but on the other hand there is the possibility that the market might see it as a signal that the likelihood of further monetary easing policies may decline and this could be a drag on the market," he said.

Official data in Britain showed that the country's economy shrank a revised 0.3 per cent in the final three months of 2011, worse than the 0.2 per cent drop previously estimated.

On currency markets the yen strengthened as investors sought safer assets.

The dollar was quoted at 82.66 yen in afternoon Asian trade against 82.86 yen in New York late on Wednesday. The euro bought $1.3315 and 110.08 yen compared with $1.3316 and 110.36 yen in New York.

In afternoon trade bargain buying helped crude reverse earlier losses that were stoked by the US Department of Energy's announcement that inventories jumped by 7.1 million barrels last week - three times more than expected.

Adding downward pressure on oil were comments from French Energy Minister Eric Besson suggesting that France is ready to release some of its strategic oil reserves to stave off rising prices.

"It was the United States that requested this, and France greeted the idea favourably. We are now waiting for the opinion of the International Energy Agency," Besson said on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, rose 22 cents to $105.33 63 per barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 21 cents at $124.07 37.

Gold was at $1,662.77 an ounce at 0815 GMT, compared with $1,676.26 late on Wednesday.

In other markets:

* Taipei fell 2.06 per cent, or 165.41 points, to 7,872.66.

Leading smartphone maker HTC plummeted 4.76 per cent to Tw$600.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co lost 1.64 per cent to end at Tw$84.1.

* Manila closed 0.35 per cent, or 17.58 points, higher at 5,085.24.

JG Summit Holdings rose 6.24 per cent to 31.50 pesos but SM Investments dropped 0.38 per cent to 663 pesos and Alliance Global fell 0.78 per cent to 12.68 pesos.

* Wellington rose 0.26 per cent, or 8.93 points, to 3,495.44.

Contact Energy fell 0.21 per cent to NZ$4.67 and Telecom slipped 0.41 per cent to NZ$2.45.

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