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Asia: Markets struggle as profit-taking offsets Wall St rally

[HONG KONG] Asian equities stuttered in early trade on Tuesday after healthy gains in the previous session attracted profit-takers, offsetting a strong lead from Wall Street.

Shanghai lost 1.03 per cent after rallying Monday in response to the Chinese central bank's weekend interest rate cut, while Hong Kong pared an initial advance to sit marginally lower.

Tokyo eased 0.21 per cent and Seoul was flat, while Sydney edged up 0.12 per cent ahead of a closely watched interest rate decision by Australia's central bank later in the day.

US shares added to their six-year bull run Monday, with the Dow and S&P 500 again ending at record highs, while the Nasdaq surged above 5,000 for the first time since 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst.

The tech-rich Nasdaq jumped 0.90 per cent, the Dow rose 0.86 per cent and the S&P advanced 0.61 per cent.

The gains came on a stream of merger announcements, including the US$16.7 billion acquisition of Freescale Semiconductor by NXP Semiconductor, in a deal that links two Nasdaq companies.

But Asian markets were unable to add to Monday's gains, while regional investors are keeping an eye on Australia, where central bank policymakers are forecast to announce another rate cut to record lows to support the struggling economy.

On currency markets the dollar bought 120.03 yen, compared with 120.17 yen in New York but still well up from 119.80 yen seen in Tokyo earlier Monday.

The euro fetched US$1.1185 and 134.25 yen, against US$1.1182 and 134.38 yen in US trade.

Traders are also keeping their eye on the start Thursday of the annual meeting of China's rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress, at which Premier Li Keqiang is expected to deliver an address on the state of the economy.

Oil prices recovered slightly after sliding in the previous session. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery rose 27 cents to US$49.86 while Brent crude for April gained 70 cents to US$60.24 in morning trade.

Gold fetched US$1,209.65 against US$1,216.55 late Monday.


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