- POSTED: 09 Jan 2014 18:51
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Asian markets mostly fell on Thursday following losses on Wall Street, as minutes from the Federal Reserve's recent policy meeting showed officials are confident the US economy can withstand stimulus cuts.
HONG KONG : Asian markets mostly fell on Thursday following losses on Wall Street, as minutes from the Federal Reserve's recent policy meeting showed officials are confident the US economy can withstand stimulus cuts.
Tokyo dropped 1.50 per cent, or 241.12 points, to 15,880.33 and Seoul fell 0.66 per cent, or 12.85 points, to close at 1,946.11.
Hong Kong finished down 0.91 per cent, or 209.26 points, at 22,787.33 while Shanghai closed down 0.82 per cent, or 16.72 points, at 2,027.62.
Bucking the trend was Sydney, which rose 0.16 per cent, or 8.4 points, to 5,324.40, despite news that Moody's had become the second agency to cut Australian carrier Qantas's debt rating to junk status after it announced a profit warning last month.
Qantas climbed 2.27 per cent even after Moody's said it now rates the airline Ba2 following Standard and Poor's decision last month to assign it BB+ status.
Moody's cited "a sharp deterioration in the company's core domestic business" after the carrier forecast in December a half-year loss of up to A$300 million (US$267 million) and the slashing of 1,000 jobs due to "immense" cost pressures.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei-255 fell on continued profit-taking, with a weaker yen failing to lift the market into positive territory. Seoul's slide came after after South Korea's central bank froze its key interest rate for an eighth consecutive month.
The Bank of Korea kept its benchmark interest rate steady at 2.5 per cent and maintained the forecast it made three months earlier that the economy will grow 3.8 per cent this year.
In China, official figures showed inflation at 2.6 per cent in 2013, well below Beijing's 3.5 per cent target. Analysts broadly welcomed the statistics, saying they pointed to a stable outlook for prices and a reduced chance of monetary tightening.
On Wall Street, The Dow slipped 0.41 per cent, the S&P 500 was flat and the Nasdaq rose 0.30 per cent on Wednesday after the release of minutes from the Fed's December 17-18 policy meeting.
They showed that central bank policymakers expect unemployment to continue falling even without the support of its vast bond-buying programme.
The meeting concluded with the bank reducing its stimulus -- which has been in place since September 2012 -- by US$10 billion to US$75 billion in January.
"Most members agreed that the cumulative improvement in labour market conditions and the likelihood that the improvement would be sustained indicated that the (policy committee) could appropriately begin to slow the pace of its asset purchases at the meeting," the minutes said.
"Most had become more confident" that labour market conditions would continue to improve.
The bank's next meeting will be on January 28-29. Investors will have their eyes on the release on Friday of non-farm payrolls data for fresh clues about the state of the economy.
In afternoon Tokyo currency trade, the dollar bought 104.85 yen, against 104.82 yen late in New York but still down from rates slightly above 105 yen in Tokyo on Wednesday.
The euro held firm at US$1.3575 and 142.33 yen, compared with US$1.3574 and 142.26 yen in the US.
On oil markets, New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for February delivery, was up 38 cents at US$92.71. Brent North Sea crude for February rose 36 cents to US$107.42.
Gold fetched US$1,226.19 at 1025 GMT compared with US$1,225.50 late Wednesday.
In other markets, Taipei fell 0.48 per cent, or 41.33 points, to 8,514.68; Wellington rose 35.07 points, or 0.73 per cent, to 4,814.87; Manila was 0.82 per cent, or 48.97 points, lower at 5,937.51; Bangkok was flat, adding 0.53 points to 1,258.26; Jakarta finished flat, up 0.63 points at 4,201.22; Kuala Lumpur slipped 0.17 per cent, or 3.09 points, to 1,828.21; and Mumbai ended flat, falling 16.01 points to 20,713.37.