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Asian stocks slip after bull run

Jan 07 2011 09:44 AFP

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Hong Kong - Asian stocks slipped on Friday at the end of a strong week for the biggest bourses, with traders turning cautious ahead of key US jobs data and resource stocks affected by weaker commodity prices.

Tokyo's Nikkei index was down 0.15% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off by 0.1% after both indexes gained about 3% over the week's previous sessions.

Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.65%, continuing a lacklustre week dampened by floods that have badly affected coal miners.

Shanghai's Composite was flat.

In Tokyo, weakness in oil and gold prices led to declines among energy companies such as Japan Petroleum Exploration and Inpex, with resource-heavy trading house Mitsubishi Corporation also down.

Shanghai dealers have been caught between expectations of further measures by Beijing to cool the economy, and reports in state media on Thursday that Chinese banks may issue more than one trillion yuan ($151bn) in new loans this month.

"The liquidity conditions will likely improve at the beginning of this year, but it won't be back to the overly-loosened conditions last year," Li Xiaoxuan, analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

US stocks had a mixed day on Thursday ahead of December unemployment estimates from the Labour Department that will be keenly watched for any sign that America's so-far jobless recovery might start creating work.

Markets have also been affected by a resurgence in the European Union's debt crisis, with the euro and European bond yields under pressure.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.22% and the broader S&P 500 index was down 0.21%, but the tech-rich Nasdaq gained 0.28%.

On Asian oil markets, New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery, advanced 51 cents to $88.89 per barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for February was down 29 cents at $94.23.

The single European currency approached a four-month low when it hit $1.2967 to the dollar but recovered to stand at $1.2996 later in Tokyo morning trade, against $1.3006 in New York late on Thursday.

The euro fetched ¥108.29 versus ¥108.30 the previous day. The dollar was a tad lower at ¥83.32 from ¥83.34 in late New York trade.

Gold opened at $1 368.00 - $1 369.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Thursday's close of $1 376.80 - $1 377.80, having declined over four consecutive sessions for the first time in 12 months.

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