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Asia: Markets fall in line with Wall St as tech firms take a hit

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly fell on Friday as investors struggled to maintain the previous day's positive momentum following losses on Wall Street, with technology firms tracking a sharp fall in Apple.

While worries about the Syrian crisis and a potential China-US trade war keep dealers on edge, focus has for now moved to the corporate arena as the earnings season gets into full swing.

All three main Wall Street indexes fell Thursday after a mixed bag of business reports with market giant Procter & Gamble posting lacklustre results, while rising US Treasury yields also spooked investors worried about higher interest rates.

But the big news was a near-three per cent plunge in Apple, which came after major chip supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) forecast sales for the present quarter would be about US$1 billion down on analyst forecasts.

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This fuelled concerns that the smartphone sector, a massive driver of revenue for tech firms, including Apple and Samsung, was beginning to wane. The tech-rich Nasdaq lost 0.8 per cent in New York.

Asia-listed Apple suppliers and other tech firms fell. In Taipei, TSMC plunged almost six per cent and Foxconn lost one per cent. Alps Technology shed 1.6 per cent in Tokyo, while Seoul-listed LG Display was off 0.6 per cent.

South Korean titan Samsung was more than one percent lower, while AAC Technologies sank 5.5 per cent in Hong Kong.

POUND EXTENDS LOSSES

On broader markets, Taipei was off 1.4 per cent, Hong Kong fell 0.2 per cent and Seoul was 0.3 per cent lower, while Shanghai dipped 0.7 per cent. Singapore shed 0.2 per cent and Sydney was 0.1 per cent off.

However, Tokyo ended the morning 0.1 per cent higher.

Manila jumped 1.3 per cent, recovering most of Thursday's losses, though the index is down 10 per cent so far this year on worries about inflation, a weak currency and fears the central bank may need to lift interest rates sharply.

Energy firms dipped slightly after Thursday's oil-fuelled surge after reports said Opec officials meeting in Saudi Arabia suggested supplies looked like they were coming into line with demand.

That led to worries about an Opec-Russia output cap deal that has supported prices in recent years.

However, crude remains at more than three-year highs, supported by continued Middle East tensions and signed of healthy US demand.

On currency markets, the pound continued its fall against the dollar after Bank of England boss Mark Carney tempered expectations of an interest rate hike next month following an surprise drop in March inflation.

Sterling had rallied at the start of the week to its highest post-Brexit vote level on bets that British prices had continued to rise last month and rates would follow suit.

"Carney walked back all the hawkishness suggesting interest rates will go up over the next few years but gave no specific timeline which caused anyone who was banking on a May rate hike to head for the exits," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda.

AFP