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Asian shares mixed after soft data

Asian markets were mixed on Thursday (Aug 14) despite positive cues from Wall Street as traders digested a slew of soft data including a weaker-than-expected report on retail sales in the world's largest economy.

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Thursday (Aug 14) despite positive cues from Wall Street as traders digested a slew of soft data including a weaker-than-expected report on retail sales in the world's largest economy.

Investors were also focused in late trade on eurozone growth data, with recovery in the crisis-battered region appearing to stall in the second quarter, as the main growth engines, France and Germany, ground to a standstill.

Tokyo closed up 0.66 per cent, or 100.94 points, to 15,314.57, Sydney gained 0.61 per cent, or 33.78 points, to 5,548.5 while Hong Kong lost 0.36 per cent, or 88.98 points, to 24,801.36 and Shanghai dropped 0.74 per cent, or 16.41 points, to 2,206.47.

Seoul ended flat, edging up 0.86 points to 2,063.22 after South Korea's central bank cut interest rates for the first time in 15 months, under growing government pressure including warnings of recession from the new finance minister.

The mixed performance came despite a strong lead from Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday finished up 0.55 per cent at 16,651.80, with investors discounting a lacklustre US retail sales report. Retail sales were virtually unchanged in July from the prior month and, excluding the automobile sector, edged up just 0.1 per cent, the Commerce Department said.

The report was weaker than analysts expected, and highlighted the fragile state of the US economy where wage growth is minimal and unemployment, though easing, remains high.

Investors in Asia were also still digesting other disappointing regional data posted on Wednesday. Statistics showed Japan's economy suffered its biggest quarterly contraction since the 2011 quake and tsunami, while in China industrial output and retail sales numbers came in slightly slower in July than the previous month's data.

Adding to the downbeat sentiment, eurozone growth data revealed that Germany's economy - Europe's biggest - shrank in the second quarter. Germany's gross domestic product shrank by 0.2 per cent in the period from April to June, following growth of 0.7 per cent in the preceding three months, data showed on Thursday.

And the region's number two economy, France, showed zero growth for the second consecutive quarter.

The tepid data sparked some speculation among investors about fresh prospects of stimulus from major central banks. On Thursday, the Bank of Korea cut its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 2.25 per cent. It was the first rate cut since May 2013.

The move came after the finance ministry last month unveiled a $40 billion stimulus package and revised its 2014 economic growth forecast down from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent. At the time, Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan warned that the national economy stood at a crossroads between "making a leap forward and falling into a recession".

In forex markets, the dollar was at ¥102.57 in afternoon Asian trade on Thursday compared with ¥102.43 yen in New York late on Wednesday. The euro bought US$1.3361 and ¥137.07 against US$1.3363 and ¥136.89 yen in US trade.

And in oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery eased 44 cents to US$97.15, while Brent crude for September shed 48 cents to US$103.80 in afternoon trade.

Gold traded at US$1,314.85 an ounce at 0903 GMT compared to US$1,307.33 an ounce late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Mumbai advanced 0.71 per cent, or 184.28 points, to end at 26,103.23.

JSW Steel climbed 8.65 per cent to 1,274.75 rupees, while Indiabulls Real Estate rose 5.57 per cent to 70.10 rupees.

-- Bangkok lost 0.17 per cent, or 2.58 points, to 1,541.97.

Telecoms company True Corporation lost 2.88 per cent to 10.10 baht, while Airports of Thailand fell 2.28 per cent to 214.00 baht.

-- Jakarta ended down 0.25 per cent, or 12.72 points, at 5,155.55.

Bank Permata lost 0.36 per cent at 1,375 rupiah, while Indo-Rama Synthetics climbed 11.11 per cent to 1,000 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur rose 0.19 per cent, or 3.54 points, to close at 1,861.58.

Axiata Group rose 0.3 per cent to 6.97 ringgit, while Public Bank gained 0.5 per cent to 19.12. SapuraKencana Petroleum fell 0.2 per cent to 4.18 ringgit

-- Singapore eased 0.20 per cent, or 6.58 points, to 3,294.83.

Vehicle distributor Jardine Cycle & Carriage was down 0.49 per cent to S$44.68 while Singapore Airlines eased 0.71 per cent to S$9.76.

-- Manila jumped 1.07 per cent, or 74.76 points, to 7,061.00.

Top-traded Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. gained 4.03 per cent to 3,250.00 pesos while Ayala Land Inc. gained 0.95 per cent to 32 pesos.

-- Taipei ended flat, edging down 0.7 points to 9,230.61.

TSMC rose 1.22 per cent to NT$124.0 while Acer fell 1.0 per cent to NT$24.8.

-- Wellington rose 0.15 per cent, or 7.71 points, to 5,062.41.

Spark gained 1.42 per cent to NZ$2.85 while Chorus was steady at NZ$1.71. 

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