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Asian Shares End Mostly Lower After US Data

Most Asian shares ended lower on Friday, as weak U.S. economic data and growing concerns over Spanish debt financing despite a relatively successful bond auction yesterday kept the overall mood cautious ahead of the weekend.

Investors looked ahead to the G20 and IMF meet in Washington at the weekend after IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that supplying more capital directly to European banks could help ease the debt crisis. Crude and copper futures were higher and the euro rose against the dollar after Lagarde said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that Spain is not in need of the fund's support.

Tokyo stocks lost ground, as a slew of earnings results due next week and uncertainty ahead of the Bank of Japan's April 27 policy board meeting rendered investor mood cautious. Both the Nikkei average and the broader Topix index shed around 0.3 percent each. Canon slid half a percent and Fanuc lost 0.8 percent ahead of their earnings results on Wednesday.

Automakers such as Honda Motor and Toyota lost 1-2 percent and tech majors like Advantest, Tokyo Electron and Fujifilm Holdings fell between 0.3 percent and 2.3 percent, while Olympus soared 6.4 percent on news of shareholders approving a new board.

Toshibha lost 2.4 percent after its U.S. memory-making partner SanDisk posted quarterly sales and profit that fell short of street estimates. JFE Holdings tumbled 3.3 percent on a Nikkei report that it plans to invest Y1 trillion in the next three years ending March 2015.

China's Shanghai Composite index rallied 1.2 percent on renewed hopes of fiscal and monetary stimulus, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended marginally higher.

Australian shares posted modest gains to finish at a fresh eight-month high, as investors raised bets on a cut in official interest rates when the RBA board meets on May 1. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index edged up around 0.1 percent each. Major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended on a flat note, while ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac rose between 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent.

Oil Search climbed 5.7 percent, a day after its LNG Project partner ExxonMobil discovered more gas in Papua New Guinea's Western Province. Boral fell 2.9 percent after the building materials producer cut its annual profit guidance, citing rainy weather in eastern Australia and weak residential housing activity. James Hardie shares lost 1.1 percent.

South Korea's Kospi average fell 1.3 percent to a one-week low, as disappointing U.S. labor market and housing data weighed on large-cap bluechip shares. LG Chem plunged 9.2 percent as the nation's biggest chemicals maker posted a worse-than-estimated 42 percent decline in first-quarter net profit, hurt by rising raw material costs and low product prices amid waning Chinese demand.

Shares of POSCO ended down 0.4 percent. After the market closed, the steelmaker, backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, reported a 42 percent drop in its first-quarter earnings, citing high raw material costs and sluggish global demand.

New Zealand shares fell, led by Cavalier after the carpet maker said it will likely post a full-year loss due to business restructuring. Shares of the company plunged 11 percent to a two-year low, while the benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 0.3 percent. Heartland New Zealand, the would-be bank, tumbled 5 percent, Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, fell 2.2 percent and utility Contact Energy eased 0.4 percent, but SkyCity Entertainment Group rose 2.1 percent and PGG Wrightson climbed 5.3 percent.

India's benchmark Sensex was last trading down 1.1 percent as investors took profits following four sessions of gains. Elsewhere, Malaysia's KLSE Composite eased 0.3 percent, Singapore's Straights Times index was down 0.4 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average fell 1.5 percent, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index rose 0.4 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks drifted lower overnight, as discouraging economic data on initial jobless claims, existing home sales and regional manufacturing activity overshadowed better than expected first-quarter earnings from financial giants Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. The Dow dropped half a percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq slid 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 shed 0.6 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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