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Asian shares mostly lower after Wall St tumble

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly sank again on Thursday after Wall Street was hit by a further fall in oil prices, while the dollar edged up after tumbling against the yen.

Analysts said traders were taking their cash off the table before the end of the year after enjoying a surge over the past few weeks that has been supported by strong US data, Japanese easing measures and hopes for stimulus in China.

Tokyo tumbled 1.54 per cent, Hong Kong sank 1.40 per cent, Sydney shed 0.58 per cent and Seoul lost 0.85 per cent but Shanghai added 0.20 per cent.

In New York the Dow and S&P 500, which last week ended at record highs, retreated owing to a pullback in petroleum plays that came after OPEC lowered its demand forecast for 2015 and the US revealed its stockpiles surged.

The Dow fell 1.51 per cent, the S&P 500 sank 1.64 per cent and the Nasdaq slipped 1.73 per cent.

However, oil prices rebounded slightly in Asia Thursday. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery gained 53 US cents to US$61.47 while Brent crude for January was up 54 US cents to US$64.78.

WTI dropped US$2.88 in New York, while Brent lost US$2.60 in London.

Crude has plunged around 40 per cent since June on the back of an oversupply in global markets, which was exacerbated by OPEC's output decision last month.

On foreign exchange markets the dollar ticked up to 118.18 yen in late morning trade after sinking to as low as 117.44 yen at one point as traders spooked by the equities selling looked for safer investments. The yen is considered a haven in times of turmoil.

The greenback is still well down from the seven-year-high of 121.84 yen seen Monday.

"Large overseas hedge funds and other hedged investors are making their year-end position adjustments, booking profits after going long on the dollar and Nikkei futures and shorting the yen," Eiji Kinouchi, chief technical strategist at Daiwa Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The euro slipped to 146.43 yen early Thursday before bouncing back to 147.20 yen. It sat at 146.68 in US trade. The single currency was also at US$1.2486 against US$1.2446 in New York.

In Shanghai stocks bucked the global trend again after a roller-coaster week that saw the composite index plunge more than five percent Tuesday, having racked up gains of more than 20 per cent since mid-November.

The market has been buoyant as traders bet on the government introducing fresh stimulus measures after last month unveiling a surprise cut in interest rates.

In Hong Kong dealers are keeping an eye on the streets as police and bailiffs prepare to clear the main pro-democracy site after more than two months of occupation.

Gold was at US$1,228.00 an ounce compared with US$1,204.67 late Tuesday.