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Asian stocks mixed, US growth weighed by profit-taking

Asian markets were mixed on Thursday (July 31) after US data showing the world's top economy grew much more than expected in the second quarter was offset by late profit-taking.

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed on Thursday (July 31) after US data showing the world's top economy grew much more than expected in the second quarter was offset by late profit-taking.

The dollar moved narrowly in Asian trade after briefly hitting a near four-month high and then retreating against the yen in New York as the US growth figures were tempered by a guarded Federal Reserve report.

Tokyo's Nikkei gave up early gains to end 0.16 per cent lower after a recent rally helped it to a six-month high. The index lost 25.46 points to 15,620.77. Sydney added 0.18 per cent, or 10.01 points, to close at 5,632.9 and Seoul lost 0.31 per cent, or 6.49 points, to 2,076.12.

Shanghai jumped 0.93 per cent, or 20.32 points, to 2,201.56 and Hong Kong gained 0.10 per cent, or 24.64 points to 24,756.85 - extending a winning streak to eight straight sessions. Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday (July 30) the economy grew 4.0 per cent in April-June, much more than the 3.0 per cent forecast. It was also a sharp reversal on the 2.1 per cent contraction in the previous three months that was caused by a severe winter.

The news sent the dollar surging in New York to 103.09 yen - its highest level since early April and well up from the 102.11 yen earlier in Tokyo. However, it retreated to 102.81 yen by the end of trade after the Fed said that, while the economy was strengthening, it was still disappointed in the jobs market and would keep interest rates low for as long as needed.

Traders had been hoping the pick-up in economic activity would push bank chief Janet Yellen to increase rates as soon as this year, rather than late 2015, as previously indicated.

In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar was changing hands at 102.90 yen. The euro bought US$1.3393 and 137.82 yen on Thursday against US$1.3395 and 137.73 yen.

US JOBS DATA MOVE INTO FOCUS

Despite the healthy data, Wall Street ended mixed. The Dow slipped 0.19 per cent but the Nasdaq added 0.45 per cent, while the S&P 500 was marginally higher.

Traders were largely unimpressed by a report from payrolls company ADP that showed the private sector created 218,000 jobs in July. While it is above the 200,000 level, it is much lower than the 281,000 seen in June. Eyes are now on the release on Friday (Aug 1) of non-farm payrolls, which will give a better handle on the state of the economy.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery slipped US$1.05 to US$99.22 while Brent crude for September was down 64 cents at US$105.87 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched US$1,295.31 an ounce by 0810 GMT compared with US$1,299.40 late on Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 1.39 per cent, or 131.17 points, to 9,315.85.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. shed 2.81 per cent to NT$121.0 while tech firm HTC was 1.85 per cent lower at NT$132.5.

-- Wellington added 0.18 per cent, or 9.44 points, to 5,167.99.

-- Manila ended marginally lower, dipping 2.77 points to 6,864.82.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone dropped 0.65 perc ent to 3,050.00 pesos and Universal Robina retreated 0.31 per cent to 162.50 pesos, while SM Prime Holdings was off 1.67 per cent at 15.32 pesos.

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