Asian markets fall after US losses

HONG KONG - Asian markets fell on Thursday after disappointing numbers from the United States offset upbeat sentiment following Europe's exit from a long and damaging recession.

Tokyo shares slid 2.12 per cent, or 297.22 points, to 13,752.94 as a stronger yen helped pull down the market and questions swirled about whether Japan would usher in a corporate tax cut.

Sydney also closed down 0.10 per cent, or 5.00 points, at 5152.4.

Earlier gains in Hong Kong, which saw trade cancelled on Wednesday because of Typhoon Utor, were lost with the market ending flat, down 0.01 per cent or 1.99 points at 22,539.25.

Shanghai ended down 0.87 per cent, or 18.26 points, at 2,081.88 while Seoul and Mumbai were shut for public holidays.

US markets dipped Wednesday after anaemic inflation data and a disappointing earnings report from Macy's suggested economic weakness in the world's biggest economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.73 per cent, or 113.35 points, at 15,337.66 - its biggest point decline since late June.

But European markets closed mostly higher after official data showed the eurozone had finally climbed out of a record 18-month recession.

The eurozone boasted surprisingly strong growth of 0.3 per cent in the second quarter led by Germany and France, the European Union said.

Investors said there were currently few concrete signs to make firm bets on.

"The market remains in a fairly narrow range, dependent on currency markets for guidance and futures for intraday movement," Naoki Fujiwara, fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"There are almost no wholly new trading incentives right now, so the market simply gyrates."

Investors in Japan turned cautious after Finance Minister Taro Aso expressed doubts about possibility of a fresh corporate tax cut.

The comment came as a response to a recent media report that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told government agencies to study the possibility to encourage private sector investment.

Aso pointed out that much of Japan's business establishment pays no corporate taxes, and reducing the tax rate "would do little to help the Japanese economy".

A doubling of Japan's consumption tax to 10 per cent by 2015 is seen as crucial to chopping the country's enormous debt, the worst among industrialised nations at more than twice the size of the economy.

The dollar changed hands at 97.75 yen, compared with 98.14 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon.

The euro was at $1.3290 and 129.91 yen against 1.3255 and 130.08 yen in New York.

Oil prices moved higher in Asian trade supported by concerns that escalating violence in Egypt will disrupt supplies from the Middle East, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in September, was up 42 cents at $107.27 a barrel in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for September gained 38 cents to $110.58.

Gold rose to $1,338.20 an ounce at 1030 GMT compared with $1330.37 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

- Wellington rose 0.13 per cent, or 5.67 points, to 4,530.26.

Fletcher Building was up 0.6 per cent to NZ$8.29 and Telecom Corp was down 0.4 per cent at $NZ2.275.

- Taipei fell 0.81 per cent, or 64.07 points, to 7,887.26.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.83 per cent lower at Tw$96.0 while HTC gained 1.28 per cent to Tw$158.0.

- Manila fell 1.14 per cent, or 75.90 points, to 6,580.71.

SM Investments plunged 7.73 per cent to 805.50 pesos, Universal Robina fell 2.34 per cent to 121.10 pesos, and Ayala was almost flat at 598.50 pesos.

- Kuala Lumpur stocks ended flat, dipping 1.52 points to 1,792.21.

Genting Malaysia lost 1.8 per cent to 4.29 ringgit, while Felda Global Ventures Holdings gained 2.9 per cent to 4.55 ringgit.

- Jakarta ended down 0.31 per cent, or 14.60 points, at 4,685.13. Car maker Astra International fell 3.70 per cent to 6,500 rupiah, while cigarette maker Gudang Garam gained 2.11 per cent to 43,600 rupiah.

- Singapore closed down 0.85 per cent, or 27.74 points, at 3,220.92.

Vehicle distributor Jardine Cycle and Carriage was down 1.21 per cent at S$40.08 and agribusiness company Wilmar International shed 0.32 per cent to S$3.11.

- Bangkok lost 0.52 per cent or 7.56 points to 1,453.07.

Coal producer Banpu added 4.72 per cent to 266.00 baht, while oil company PTT Global Chemical dropped 4.75 per cent to 70.25 baht.

- Seoul and Mumbai were closed for a public holiday.

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