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Asia shares mixed, yen trumps Japan growth data

Asian stocks were mixed Thursday, with a stronger yen and a slump in Sony shares pushing Tokyo's Nikkei lower despite data showing the Japanese economy accelerated in the first quarter.

HONG KONG: Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday, with a stronger yen and a slump in Sony shares pushing Tokyo's Nikkei lower despite data showing the Japanese economy accelerated in the first quarter.

Wall Street provided a negative lead, with the main indexes losing ground in an end to a five-day rally that saw the Dow and S&P 500 notch up fresh records.

Tokyo slipped 0.75 percent, or 107.55 points, to finish at 14,298.21, Sydney added 0.26 percent, or 14.3 points, to 5510.8 and Seoul was flat, edging down 0.63 points to 2,010.20.

Shanghai sank 1.12 percent, or 22.94 points, to 2,024.97 while Hong Kong added 0.66 percent, or 148.09 points, to 22,730.86.

Japan's Cabinet Office said on Thursday that the world's number-three economy grew 1.5 percent on-quarter in January-March, sharply higher than the previous three months, thanks to a rush by shoppers to beat an April 1 sales tax hike.

That compares with revised growth of 0.1 percent in October-December and is much better than the 1.1 percent forecast by market-watchers.

It also represents the sixth consecutive quarter of growth for Japan and is the fastest since July-September 2011, when the economy picked up from the effects of the quake-tsunami disaster.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed big government spending and monetary easing as the solution to conquer years of deflation and tepid growth, which has in turn sent the yen plunging, giving a boost to exporters.

But critics fear the sales tax hike -- seen as crucial for slashing Japan's massive national debt -- will dent a nascent economic recovery.

"The economy will certainly contract in the second quarter of the year, as consumers rein in spending after the tax hike, and residential investment is set to plunge," said Marcel Thieliant, a Japan economist for Capital Economics.

"But forward-looking business surveys... point to a rebound in the second half of the year."

However, the Nikkei slipped as exporters were hit by a stronger yen.

The currency rose against the dollar in New York trade on Wednesday following data showing US producer price inflation at 0.6 percent in April, far above analysts' average estimate of 0.2 percent.

The dollar edged up to 102.03 yen in Tokyo on Thursday from 101.87 yen late in New York but it remains down from the 102.20 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday, while the euro was at 139.56 yen and $1.3679 against 139.70 yen and $1.3701.

Also in Tokyo, Sony shares dived 6.09 percent after the electronics giant warned that it would remain in the red for another year after it booked a $1.26 billion annual loss.

The firm said after markets closed on Wednesday that costs tied to its exit from the personal computer business -- part of a wider restructuring -- were largely to blame for its woeful bottom line.

In New York, the Dow fell 0.61 percent, the S&P 500 slipped 0.47 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.72 percent following the inflation data and a mixed bag of earnings reports.

The Dow had risen for five straight days before the losses, including three new records.

Oil prices eased. The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, was down 39 cents at $101.98 a barrel in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for June dropped $1.13 to $109.06.

Gold fetched $1,304.92 an ounce at 0810 GMT compared with $1,303.17 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei was flat, edging up 5.49 points to 8,880.65.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was unchanged at T$122.00 while leading chip design house MediaTek dipped 0.79 percent to T$500.00.

-- Wellington slid 0.35 percent, or 18.40 points, to 5,194.96.
Fletcher Building was down 1.18 percent at NZ$9.21 but Telecom added 0.7 percent to NZ$2.71.

-- Manila shed 0.45 percent, or 31.11 points, to end at 6,849.33.
Universal Robina fell 0.39 percent to 154.90 while Megaworld Corp rose 0.43 percent to 4.70 pesos.

-- Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

-- Mumbai gained 0.38 percent, or 90.48 points, to end at 23,905.60 points.
Titan Company rose 5.99 percent to 322 rupees while Apollo Tyres gained 5.88 percent to 177.30 rupees.

-- Bangkok fell 0.06 percent, or 0.82 points, to 1,395.21.
Bumrungrad Hospital gained 10.34 percent to 112 baht, while telecoms company True Corporation lost 4.26 percent to 6.75 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur gained 0.63 points, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 1,879.83.
Malayan Banking rose 0.20 percent to 9.94 ringgit, AMMB gained 1.25 percent to 7.30 while Tenaga Nasional lost 0.33 percent to 12.00 ringgit.

-- Singapore closed up 0.41 percent, or 13.40 points, at 3,272.49.
DBS Bank gained 0.30 percent to S$16.86 while oil rig maker Keppel Corp eased 0.47 percent to S$10.65. 

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