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Asian shares fall on Europe concerns

Feb 22 2013 07:49 AP

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Beijing - Asian stock markets fell Friday following weak economic data from Europe and moves by China's government to cool inflation pressures.

Oil rose to just above $93 a barrel despite Wall Street's overnight decline and higher US jobless numbers.

The Asian heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index, fell 0.5% to 11,252.41 while in the region's biggest economy, China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 percent to 2,323.72. Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei also suffered declines.

Australia was the region's only major gainer, with the ASX/S&P 200 rising 1.1% to 5,033.50, recovering from Thursday's 2.3% plunge.

The Shanghai index slid 3% on Thursday for its biggest decline in 15 months after Beijing announced new measures to cool politically sensitive housing costs. Also this week, the central bank drained liquidity from markets in a sign it is trying to restrain pressure for prices to rise as the economy gradually recovers.

"Policy will try to sharply slow availability of funds in the economy," said Credit Agricole CIB economist Dariusz Kowalczyk in a report.

Asian markets followed European bourses down after weaker-than-expected industrial data from heavyweight economies France and Germany. France's CAC-40 tumbled 2.3% on Thursday and markets in Germany, Britain and Italy suffered marked declines.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.7% to 22,746.37, Seoul's Kospi was off 0.2% at 2,010.81 and Taipei's Taiex lost 0.4% to 7,921.08. Singapore fell 0.3%.

US markets were rattled by Wednesday's release of notes from the Fed's last policy meeting that suggested some policymakers were worried about the cost of its monetary stimulus.

That sparked concern the Fed might wind down asset purchases, though some analysts suggested such fears were overblown.

On Thursday, the Labour Department reported the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 20 000 last week to 362 000 but said longer-term, the job market appears to be improving.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 0.5% and the broader S&P 500 index fell 0.6%.

The benchmark price of crude for April delivery was up 36 cents to $93.20 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.24, to $92.98 on Thursday, the second drop of 2% in two days.

In currency markets, the dollar fell to ¥93.15 from ¥93.26 late on Thursday. The euro was up slightly at $1.320.

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