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Asia: Markets sink as profit-takers move in, pound resilient
[HONG KONG] Asian markets fell on Friday, putting the region on course to end a broadly positive week on a sour note, as traders took a step back and their profits off the table.
There was also some unease after the head of the European Central Bank raised concerns about the growth outlook for the eurozone owing to issues within and outside the bloc.
The pound showed some resilience, even as European leaders refused pleas for help from Prime Minister Theresa May to push their Brexit deal through a fractured British parliament.
Signs of easing tensions in the China-US trade row helped propel equities this week, with both sides seeming to give key concessions, fuelling hopes they can eventually resolve their differences.
But observers noted that dealers will remain on alert for any negative news, including further developments in China's detention of two Canadians on suspicion of threats to national security.
That move came after a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei was arrested in Ottawa. She faces extradition to the US over allegations the firm broke sanctions on Iran.
In early trade Hong Kong fell 1.6 per cent and Shanghai was down 0.4 per cent.
Tokyo finished the morning 1.7 per cent lower. A survey of confidence among Japan's big businesses showed they remain cautious, with worries about the global outlook offsetting fading concerns about the impact of this year's major earthquakes and typhoons.
Sydney fell 1.2 per cent, Singapore was 1.3 per cent off and Seoul shed 1.5 per cent while Taipei was also more than one per cent lower. Wellington, Manila and Jakarta were also down.
On currency markets the pound was holding its own - maintaining gains won after May's no-confidence vote win - despite the growing prospects of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
With her agreement having no chance of passing through parliament in its present form, the PM called on her EU counterparts in a Brussels summit to give her some leeway that could get her majority support.
But she has so far failed to win any concessions on the main sticking point over Northern Ireland's future relationship.
The euro continued to struggle after being sold Thursday in reaction to ECB boss Mario Draghi's assessment that there were increasing risks to the eurozone.
After announcing the end to years of bond-buying stimulus, Mr Draghi warned of "persistent uncertainties relating to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility".