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Asian Shares Slide As Wall Street Rally Loses Steam


Asian stocks fell on Friday after a mixed session on Wall Street overnight. With oil prices caught in a range on concerns over growing U.S. crude production and the yen strengthening, investors opted to stay on the sidelines ahead of the weekend.

The arrest of Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong for bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection to a massive corruption scandal also hurt regional sentiment.

China's Shanghai Composite index dropped 27.54 points or 0.85 percent to 3,202.08 as investors locked in some of the recent gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 74 points or 0.31 percent at 24,033 in late trade on uncertainties over the U.S. fiscal and monetary policies.

Japanese shares fell as the yen gained ground amid the G20 gathering in the German city of Bonn. The Nikkei average fell 112.91 points or 0.58 percent to 19,234.62 while the broader Topix index closed 0.42 percent lower at 1,544.54.

Exporters fell broadly, with Panasonic, Hitachi, Toyota and Suzuki Motor declining 1-2 percent. Oil explorer Inpex lost 1 percent and property developer Mitsui Fudosan fell as much as 3 percent. Toshiba Corp shares plunged 9.2 percent after rating agency S&P Global warned of another downgrade.

Banks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mizuho Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial ended down between half a percent and 1 percent after U.S. bond yields eased overnight in the wake of dovish comments from influential Fed policy maker William Dudley.

Australian shares ended a choppy session modestly lower as gains among banks were offset by weakness in the mining sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 10.50 points or 0.18 percent at 5,805.80 after notching its highest close since May 5, 2015 on Thursday. The broader All Ordinaries index closed 12 points or 0.20 percent lower at 5,851.

Lower copper and iron ore prices weighed on the mining sector, with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group losing 1-2 percent. Whitehaven Coal lost 2.4 percent after the company said it would use the extra cashflow from the recent jump in coal prices to speed up its debt payments. Health insurer Medibank Private tumbled 3.9 percent and airline Virgin Australia Holdings lost 2.6 percent after unveiling their first-half results.

Oil & gas producer Santos rose half a percent as it unveiled a full-year net loss of $US1.05 billion after a billion-dollar write-down on its Queensland venture. ANZ advanced 1.9 percent on reporting a 31 percent rise in cash earnings in the three months to December. Commonwealth rose 0.4 percent and Westpac added 0.7 percent.

Gold miners Newcrest, Northern Star and Evolution climbed 1-2 percent after gold futures notched their highest finish in more than three months overnight.

Seoul shares ended marginally lower after Samsung Group's Lee Jae-yong was formally arrested over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The benchmark Kospi ended down 1.26 points or 0.06 percent at 2,080.58. Samsung shares shed 0.4 percent, while Samsung Life lost 1.4 percent and Samsung C&T, the de facto holding firm for Samsung Group, tumbled 2 percent.

New Zealand shares fell, led lower by telecom and utility stocks. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 6.45 points or 0.09 percent to 7,093.53, with Sky Network Television and Spark New Zealand falling around 2 percent each. Meridian Energy fell 1.5 percent to extend losses for a fifth consecutive session.

New Zealand's manufacturing sector registered slower growth in January, the BNZ - BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index showed today, with the corresponding PMI dropping by 2.6 points from prior month to 51.6, the lowest since January 2015. Another report from Statistics New Zealand showed that retail sales volume climbed by 0.8 percent in the December quarter, similar to the September quarter growth but slower than June quarter's 2.2 percent increase.

Singapore's Straits Times index was moving up 0.2 percent after the final GDP data showed that Singapore's economy expanded more than initially estimated in the fourth quarter. India's Sensex was rising 0.7 percent, extending gains for the second straight session.

Malaysia's KLSE Composite was inching up 0.2 percent while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was losing 0.6 percent and the Taiwan Weighted slipped 0.1 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mixed as markets showed signs of fatigue after a five-day streak of record highs. The Dow rose marginally to eke out another record close, while the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 edged down about 0.1 percent each to snap their seven-day winning streak.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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