Asian shares mostly lower




US shares dipped on Wednesday following a report showing sales of new homes. 

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets mostly fell on Thursday, taking a lead from Wall Street, while Japanese traders are sitting back ahead of the corporate earnings season.

The euro held on to gains enjoyed on Wednesday after a survey of business activity hit its highest level in almost three years in April. Investors are also keeping an eye on US President Barack Obama s visit to Japan, hoping he will mention some progress on talks over a stalled Pacific-wide trade pact.

Tokyo eased 0.44 percent by the break, Shanghai dipped 0.27 percent, Seoul was 0.10 percent off and Hong Kong was flat, while Sydney added 0.13 percent.

US shares dipped on Wednesday following a report showing sales of new homes unexpectedly plunged 14.5 percent in March from February, reinforcing a picture of a weakening housing market.

Adding to the downward pressure was a touch of profit-taking after recent gains as well as some poor earnings releases, including from telecom giant AT&T and biotech firm Amgen.

The Dow edged down 0.08 percent, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.22 percent, breaking a six-day winning streak. The Nasdaq Composite lost 0.83 percent.

On currency markets the euro fetched $1.3819 and 141.60 yen against $1.3816 and 141.65 yen.

The single currency rallied on Wednesday after Markit Economics said its Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers Index for April — a leading indicator of manufacturing and services activity — jumped to 54 in April from 53.1 in March, marking its highest reading since May 2011.

Anything above 50 points to growth and a reading below that indicates contraction.

The dollar was at 102.46 yen compared with 102.50 yen late in New York.

Obama on Thursday kicked off the first state visit to Japan by a US president in almost two decades. The trip comes at a time of strained tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over a territorial spat and Japan s imperialist past.

Investors are also keen to see some movement on talks between the US and Japan on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has run into difficulties over the countries  stand on auto and agricultural market access issues.

Oil prices were up. New York s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, was up 23 cents at $101.67 in early Asian trading. Brent North Sea crude for June rose 20 cents to $109.31.

Gold fetched $1,286.17 an ounce at 0240 GMT, compared with $1,286.71 on Wednesday



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