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Asia: Markets track US retreat

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly dipped in early trade on Tuesday, tracking a retreat in New York as anticipation builds ahead of major earnings reports and a Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Hong Kong fell 0.2 per cent in early trade while Tokyo dropped 0.4 per cent and Shanghai dipped 0.3 per cent.

But Seoul gained 0.4 per cent as South Korean tech giant Samsung announced a record profit for the July to September period, its best for any quarter, and said it would double its dividends next year.

The world's biggest memory chip and smartphone maker has had its de facto leader jailed for bribery and suffered a major blow over the recall of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 device due to exploding batteries.

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But its quarterly net profits soared to 11.2 trillion won (S$13.6 billion) - a jump of 148 per cent on the same period a year ago, thanks to strong demand for its memory chips and revived smartphone sales following the roll-out of the new generation Galaxy Note 8.

Samsung Electronics is the key subsidiary of the sprawling Samsung Group, whose heir Lee Jae Yong was found guilty in August of bribery, perjury and other charges stemming from payments to the secret confidante of ousted president Park Geun Hye.

In Tokyo, a stronger yen weighed on automakers, with Toyota losing 1.2 per cent and Honda falling 0.7 per cent, while SoftBank plunged on reports that talks over a planned telecoms mega-merger had been cancelled.

SoftBank fell 4.3 per cent in early trade, after leading business daily Nikkei reported that merger talks between its US subsidiary Sprint and fellow wireless operator T-Mobile - controlled by Deutsche Telekom - had been scrapped.

In other downbeat news, Chinese manufacturing growth slowed in October after two consecutive months of acceleration, according to official data released on Tuesday, due to weak demand and a drop in production due to public holidays and restrictions ahead of a key Communist Party meeting.

BIG WEEK FOR US

Investors are braced for a heavy week in the US, with President Donald Trump expected to say whether he will replace Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen, with the announcement likely by Friday before he embarks on an Asia tour.

Traders are also keeping a close eye on the release of the October jobs report on Friday.

News of the first indictments over the FBI investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election have also sparked caution among investors.

"The scope of Special Prosecutor (Robert) Mueller's investigation will likely widen. But at this stage, we have no idea if there's a smoking gun or its all a tempest in a teapot," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda.

There are fears the probe could potentially derail Mr Trump's tax cut plans which have boosted investor optimism.

A guilty plea by George Papadopoulos - a foreign policy advisor on Mr Trump's campaign - is seen as the sharpest evidence yet of possible collusion between the campaign and Russia.

AFP

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