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Asia: Shares mostly down, profit-taking hits

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Asian markets mostly retreated on Tuesday, with Hong Kong hit by profit-taking after a near 15 per cent rise in eight days, while Tokyo was hurt by a stronger yen.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly retreated on Tuesday, with Hong Kong hit by profit-taking after a near 15 per cent rise in eight days, while Tokyo was hurt by a stronger yen.

The broad sell-off comes after a recent rally and follows losses on Wall Street as US investors prepare for corporate earnings season to get under way.

Hong Kong slipped 1.44 per cent, Shanghai lost 0.19 per cent, Sydney eased 0.28 per cent and Tokyo was flat, while Seoul added 0.49 per cent.

With few catalysts to spur business, traders took the opportunity to cash in ahead of key events this week, including US retail sales, Chinese growth and a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.

"Clearly, investors are waiting for the next set of clues of how the global economy is evolving," Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Ltd, said.

"The data absence overnight meant they decided to take profits even though the US reporting season is set to move into a higher gear in the next two days," he told Bloomberg News.

On Wall Street the Dow eased 0.45 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 0.46 per cent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.15 per cent Hong Kong took a step back for the first time after an eight-session run that was fuelled by mainland Chinese investors seeking out relatively cheap equities after a year-long surge in Shanghai.

Retail traders north of the border have been on an investment binge in China on hopes the government will unveil economy-boosting measures following a string of weak data over recent months.

On currency markets the euro resumed its downward trend, hovering near 12-year lows ahead of the US retail sales data, which if strong could revive talks of an early Fed rate hike.

The single currency was at US$1.0573 compared with US$1.0571 in New York. It has slipped from US$1.0620 in Asia at the end of last week.

The euro fell through the US$1.05 mark in March for the first time since 2003 on talk of a Fed hike as the ECB embarks on a huge bond-buying stimulus programme.

The euro was also at 126.90 yen against 127.02 yen in New York.

The dollar eased to 120.01 yen compared with 120.15 yen in New York and well off the 120.44 yen in Tokyo earlier Monday.

Oil prices edged higher. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery gained 36 cents to US$52.27 while Brent crude for May rose 36 cents to US$58.29.

Gold fetched US$1,200.08 against US$1,199.90 late Monday.

AFP