Asia shares slip after US data but euro advances

Asia shares slip after US data but euro advances

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly retreated Thursday following another set of below-forecast US data, with Tokyo taking the biggest hit as the yen advanced against the dollar.

However, the euro added to recent gains after data showing the eurozone economy picking up trumped worries about Greece's ongoing debt reform talks.

Tokyo sank 0.98 per cent, or 194.48 points, to 19,570.24 while Sydney eased 0.33 per cent, or 18.6 points, to 5,696.5, although Seoul added 0.29 per cent, or 6.17 points, to 2,120.33.

In afternoon trade Shanghai was 0.36 per cent lower and Hong Kong was flat.

US traders were left disappointed Wednesday after the Commerce Department said retail sales, a key part of consumer spending that drives most of the US economy, stagnated in April after rising 1.1 per cent in March.

The average consensus estimate had been for a 0.2 per cent increase.

Year-on-year, retail sales rose 0.9 per cent, the weakest growth since 2009.

The news adds to unease about the world's biggest economy, which grew slower than expected in the first quarter, and makes a Federal Reserve interest rate rise unlikely in the early summer, reversing expectations from the start of the year.

"While US growth is rebounding, it may not rebound as far and as fast as many investors had expected," Russ Koesterich, global chief investment strategist at New York-based BlackRock Inc., told Bloomberg TV.

The Dow edged down 0.04 per cent and the S&P 500 dipped 0.03 per cent but the Nasdaq added 0.11 per cent.

On currency markets the dollar softened as the chances of a rate hike abated. In Japanese trade it bought 119.12 yen against 119.16 yen in New York and was well down from 119.83 yen earlier Wednesday in Asia.

The euro pushed on after official data showed the eurozone economy met expectations and grew 0.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter in January-March, up from 0.3 per cent in the previous three months.

The expansion came after getting some help from the European Central Bank's massive bond-buying programme, launched in March to kick-start the single-currency bloc.

The single currency was at $1.1379 and 135.54 yen against $1.1354 and 135.29 yen in New York and also well up from the $1.1246 and 134.80 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday.

However, traders were keeping a close watch on talks between Greece and its creditors as they try to hammer out an overhaul of the country's bailout terms that will unlock billions of euros in much-needed cash to pay its bills.

There are fears that if Greece defaults on its debt repayments it could fall out of the eurozone, which would have painful knock-on effects globally.

Oil prices were lower. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery fell 20 cents to $60.30 while Brent crude for June eased 16 cents to $66.65 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched $1,214.45 from $1,193.77 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 1.16 per cent, or 113.28 points, to 9,610.83.

Smartphone maker HTC slipped 1.75 per cent to Tw$112.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 1.35 per cent lower at Tw$146.0.

-- Wellington shed 0.23 per cent, or 13.46 per cent, to 5,738.40.

Contact Energy slipped 1.07 per cent to NZ$5.55 and Warehouse Group was down 1.08 per cent at NZ$2.76.

-- Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

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