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Asian markets fall on back of US declines

The Federal Reserve failed to buoy markets when it repeated its pledge Wednesday to remain “patient” regarding the United States’ first interest rate increase since 2006, signalling a June move remains in play.

Tokyo shares dropped 1.06 percent, or 189.51 points, to close at 17,606.22, while Hong Kong fell 1.07 percent, or 265.96 points, to 24,595.85 and Shanghai lost 1.31 percent, or 43.43 points, to 3,262.31.

Seoul declined 0.54 percent, or 10.56 points, to finish at 1,951.02.

Sydney bucked the trend, rising 0.30 percent, or 16.72 points, to close at 5,569.50.

“Investors are negative on the Fed comments because they were hoping for more clarity on when they will raise rates, as proof that they see the US recovery as a genuine one,” Andrew Clarke, director of trading at Mirabaud Securities Asia, told Bloomberg News.

Oil prices falling below $45 a barrel — close to their lowest level in six years — renewed concerns of inflation slowing as well as declining global demand. That has spooked investors who are already nervous about the impact of political uncertainty in Greece on the 19-member euro area.

As a result, all three benchmark US indices fell on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 1.13 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 slumped 1.35 percent, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.93 percent.

Oil prices were largely flat in Asian trading and any gains were capped amid fresh concern over the growing global supply glut as US crude reserves soared to a record high, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery dropped 14 cents to $44.31, after suffering a sharp decline in New York, while Brent crude for March gained seven cents to $48.54.

Samsung Electronics posted its first drop in annual net profit in three years Thursday and saw resurgent arch-rival Apple barge in on its pole position as the world’s top smartphone maker.

The South Korean firm, whose key mobile phone operations have struggled in the face of intense competition from cut-price Chinese rivals, also warned that it expected 2015’s business environment to be “as challenging as 2014”.

Samsung shares fell 1.31 percent to 1,360,000 won by the close of trading in Seoul.

The dollar, meanwhile, was at $1.1289 against the euro from $1.1284 in US trading, and at 117.72 yen, from 117.53 yen.

The euro was worth 132.90 yen from 132.62 yen.

Gold fetched $1,279.34 an ounce, against $1,287.20 late Wednesday.


In other markets:

— Manila fell 0.57 percent, or 43.88 points, to 7,617.30.

Global Ferronickel Holdings gained 6.29 percent to 3.04 pesos, SM Investments rose 1.84 percent to 914 pesos while Metro Pacific Investments fell 3.23 percent to 5.09 pesos.

— Taipei fell 0.88 percent, or 84.02 points, to 9,426.90.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co shed 2.05 percent to Tw$143.5 while Hon Hai Precision Industry closed 1.37 percent lower to Tw$86.7.

— Wellington fell 0.60 percent, or 35.01 points, to 5,759.81.

Spark was down 3.86 percent at NZ$3.36, while Fletcher Building was up 2.16 percent at NZ$8.50. (AFP)



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