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Asia: Markets struggle to build on bright start

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets struggled to recover Tuesday from the previous day's hammering with soothing comments on US rates from a top Federal Reserve official unable to reassure tetchy traders.

While Tokyo and Hong Kong saw mild recoveries from Monday's sharp sell-off there are growing concerns about the future for central bank policy easing after years of cheap cash.

Markets globally were sent into a tailspin after Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren and governor Daniel Tarullo on Friday signalled their openness to a September move.

But comments from policy board governor Lael Brainard on Monday that the case for lifting borrowing costs early was "less compelling" provided some much-needed respite, sending US shares rallying.

She said the US central bank should adopt a "moderate and gradual" approach to lifting rates and avoid moves to "tighten policy pre-emptively".

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Most Asian stocks rose early Tuesday but the rally petered out as the day wore on.

By the close of trade Tokyo was up 0.3 per cent and Seoul added 0.4 per cent, but Sydney closed down 0.2 per cent and Wellington lost 0.4 per cent. There were also sharp losses in Singapore and Jakarta.

"With Brainard's remarks, rate-hike expectations have backed down. It seems that the slump in US equities last week was a bit overdone," Toshihiko Matsuno, a senior strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

"But the market isn't likely to take on an aggressive buying mode before the results from the (Bank of Japan's) and the Fed's monetary policy meetings next week."

With expectations for a rate rise reduced slightly the US dollar dipped against its peers, easing to 101.80 yen from 101.85 yen in New York and well off the 102.50 yen mark seen earlier in Asia.

The Australian dollar jumped 0.4 per cent, while Malaysia's ringgit, the Singapore dollar and Indonesian rupiah also each posted healthy gains.

In China the government released another batch of positive data suggesting the world's number two economy is stabilising.

Retail sales, a key measure of consumer spending, and industrial output raced ahead in August from the previous month and beat expectations. Last week investors welcomed strong trade and inflation figures.

The figures come as authorities try to move the economy from a reliance on investment spending and exports to one driven more by consumer demand, although the transition has proven bumpy and gross domestic product growth is slowing.

Hong Kong was up 0.3 per cent in the afternoon, chipping away at the 3.4 per cent plunge suffered Monday, with forecast-beating Chinese data providing support. Shanghai ended marginally higher.

"Though China's industrial production and retail sales beat expectations, people won't expect data to continue to improve," Castor Pang, head of research at Core-Pacific Yamaichi Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News.

"The data also don't signal any intention for economic stimulus, so the market can't rebound strongly."

In Seoul, Samsung Electronics rallied more than 4 per cent a day after plunging 7 per cent on the back of an exploding battery crisis in its flagship Note 7 smartphone.

The gains also follow news that the firm had offloaded its printer business to US giant HP for more than a billion US dollars as it presses ahead with a restructuring drive.


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