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Asian shares slip after week's rallies

Asian shares fell on profit-taking on Thursday following four strong sessions as a rally on Wall Street fizzled out, but Sydney pared earlier losses caused by data showing Australian unemployment at a 10-year high.

HONG KONG: Asian shares fell on profit-taking on Thursday following four strong sessions as a rally on Wall Street fizzled out, but Sydney pared earlier losses caused by data showing Australian unemployment at a 10-year high.

With few catalysts to drive trade, investors took a breather before the release of fresh data from the United States and China.

Tokyo fell 1.79 per cent, or 265.32 points, to end at 14,534.74 as a stronger yen hit exporters, while Sydney was flat, dipping 2.0 points to 5,308.1. Seoul gave up 0.46 per cent, or 8.88 points, to end at 1,926.96.

Hong Kong fell 0.54 per cent, or 120.26 points, to 22,165.53 and Shanghai was down 0.55 per cent, or 11.56 points, at 2,098.40.

In other markets, Taipei fell 0.51 per cent, or 43.17 points, to 8,467.70, and Manila closed 0.17 per cent lower, dipping 10.59 points to 6,101.72.

Global markets have so far enjoyed a positive week after a tumultuous time caused by the US Federal Reserve's decision to reduce its stimulus programme for a second time in two months.

The gains came despite last Friday's below-forecast US jobs data. Buying was given extra support on Wednesday by a report showing a huge surge in Chinese exports last month.

The China figures were welcomed after a string of disappointing news, including contracting manufacturing activity, that have indicated a slowdown in the world's number-two economy.

Market players will be looking to the release in Beijing on Friday of inflation data.

Sydney shares were hit after the Australian Bureau of Statistics said the jobless rate rose to 6.0 per cent in January -- its worst level since July 2003 -- from 5.8 per cent in December.

The rise comes as the government struggles to manage a bumpy economic transition from a decade-long Asia-led mining investment boom.

It also follows the news earlier in the week that Japanese auto giant Toyota, the last carmaker in the country, will close its Melbourne plant in four years, sounding the death knell for the Australian car industry.

On Wall Street, a four-day winning streak came to an end for the Dow and S&P on Wednesday, as investors took their cash off the table ahead of retail sales figures and unemployment benefit claims.

The Dow lost 0.19 per cent and the S&P 500 dipped 0.03 per cent but the Nasdaq rose 0.24 per cent.

In currency trade, the dollar was at 102.09 yen against 102.50 yen in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

The euro bought US$1.3626 and 139.11 yen compared with US$1.3593 and 139.33 yen in US trade.

On oil markets, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery eased 61 cents to US$99.76, while Brent for March delivery was down 24 cents at US$108.55.

Gold fetched US$1,287.40 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with US$1,287.42 late Wednesday.

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