Asian markets mostly lower, yen edges up

PHOTO: Asian markets mostly lower, yen edges up

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly lower on Thursday, while the dollar lost early momentum against the yen despite more upbeat data from the United States.

Traders seemed broadly unimpressed by another record for the Dow on Wall Street, while better-than-expected Australian jobs numbers were not enough to keep Sydney shares in positive territory.

Tokyo edged up 0.10 percent, although down from mid-morning highs as the strengthening yen wiped out early losses.

Hong Kong fell 0.74 percent, Sydney lost 0.90 percent, Shanghai dipped 0.31 percent and Seoul eased 0.70 percent.

Regional markets are seeing a correction following recent gains that have been fuelled by growing confidence in the global economy.

However, investors have been spooked by a string of figures out of China lately suggesting the pick-up after last year's growth slowdown may not be as strong as first thought.

On Wall Street the Dow edged up 0.04 percent in an ninth straight day of gains, its longest winning streak for 16 years and marking another record high.

US traders took heart from a report showing a stronger-than-expected rise of 1.1 percent in retail sales in February from January, though that was partly due to higher petrol prices.

The data lifted the dollar in New York, where it finished at 96.14 yen on Wednesday.

However, the greenback - which has risen about 20 percent against the yen since November - was lower on profit-taking Thursday in Tokyo, changing hands at 95.76 yen. The euro bought $1.2968 and 124.21 against $1.2956 and 124.56 yen.

In Sydney, shares dipped after a strong set of jobs numbers that, despite being positive, analysts said could dampen any new measures to boost the economy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held at 5.4 percent last month, defying most forecasts of a rise to 5.5 percent, while 71,500 jobs were created, much higher than the 10,000 forecast.

Macquarie Bank senior economist Brian Redican said the numbers were "extraordinary", adding: "With that kind of employment growth there is no rationale for cutting rates."

Oil prices eased, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, dropping 22 cents to $92.30 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shedding 31 cents to $108.21.

Gold was at $1,588.55 an ounce at 0220 GMT compared with $1,592.78 late Wednesday.