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Asian Shares Mostly Lower Before Easter Break


Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Thursday as investors adopted a cautious stance ahead of the Good Friday and Easter holidays.

Chinese shares fell from a 13-month high as investors booked some profits after recent strong gains amid signs of economic stabilization.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gave up 12.92 points or 0.40 percent to finish at 3,250.20, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 161.42 points or 0.5 percent at 29,963.26.

Japanese shares fell from a 4-1/2-month high as treasuries climbed alongside the yen and a Nikkei report said Canon would cut its earnings forecast.

The Nikkei 225 Index fell 187.85 points or 0.8 percent to 22,090.12, while the broader Topix tumbled 1 percent to 1,614.97.

Canon shares fell nearly 4 percent, Sony dropped 1.2 percent and Panasonic shed 0.6 percent. Automakers surged, with Honda Motor rallying 1.4 percent on optimism over U.S.-China trade talks.

Rakuten gained 1.9 percent after the e-commerce giant said that account registrations for trading crypto currencies on Rakuten Wallet are now open.

Pharma stocks paced the declines, with Takeda Pharmaceutical losing 3.5 percent and Astellas Pharma declining 3.2 percent.

Australian markets ended little changed, as healthcare companies and gold miners fell, offsetting gains in the financial sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended marginally higher at 6,259.80 after the release of upbeat jobs data for March. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended slightly lower at 6,349.90.

The big four banks rose between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. Mining heavyweights ended mixed, with BHP giving up 0.2 percent, while Rio Tinto advanced 1.4 percent and Fortescue Metals Group added 0.7 percent.

Woodside Petroleum gained 1 percent after reporting a 4 percent increase in its first quarter revenue.

Healthcare stocks such as CSL and Cochlear dropped 1-2 percent on a strong Aussie dollar and amid declines in their U.S. peers overnight on regulatory worries.

Gold miner Evolution tumbled 3 percent as gold hit its lowest level since the end of December after the release of upbeat China data.

GrainCorp declined 2.2 percent after its grains business experienced a deterioration of about A$40 million in expected EBITDA for the half-year period up to March 31, 2019.

Seoul stocks fell sharply after a recent string of gains. The benchmark Kospi plunged 32.12 points or 1.4 percent to 2,213.77 as the Bank of Korea cut its economic growth and inflation forecasts while leaving its key interest rate unchanged.

New Zealand shares fell modestly, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index edging down 22.62 points or 0.2 percent to 9,959.62.

Tourism Holdings plummeted 17.5 percent after the company lowered its annual profit guidance by as much as 22 percent, citing a weak U.S. market.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended slightly lower as investors digested a mixed batch of earnings news from prominent companies and positive economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended little changed, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.

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