Asian markets fall, dealers seek fresh impetus

Asian markets were mostly lower Tuesday following losses in New York as dealers took profits from recent advances while also seeking fresh catalysts.

Tokyo was also weighed by a rise in the yen, which has suffered heavy selling in recent weeks, while the South Korean bourse slipped on disappointment over the latest earnings guidance from Samsung Electronics.

Tokyo slipped 0.86 percent, or 90.95 points, lower to 10,508.06, Sydney lost 0.57 percent, or 27.1 points, to close at 4,690.2 and Seoul was 0.66 percent lower, shedding 13.31 points to 1,997.94.

Hong Kong lost 0.94 percent, shedding 218.56 points to 23,111.19 while Shanghai fell 0.41 percent, or 9.29 points, to 2,276.07.

With the US fiscal crisis out of the way until talks next month on raising the country's borrowing limit and cutting spending, eyes are now on the upcoming earnings season and economic indicators.

"We could be in a no man's land between the fiscal cliff and [the debate around] the debt ceiling," said Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac Institutional Bank in Sydney.

China is due to unveil several batches of data over the coming week, including on trade, inflation and gross domestic product, with most economists upbeat following a series of results suggesting the economy is picking up strength.

However, Wall Street provided a negative lead owing to caution ahead of the start of the corporate reporting season later Tuesday.

The Dow shed 0.38 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.31 percent and the Nasdaq edged down 0.09 percent.

In Tokyo the Nikkei fell as the yen picked up slightly against the dollar and euro, although analysts said its relative weakness should continue to provide support.

"The market remains overheated after running up so much over the past several weeks, making it vulnerable to more selling," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Currency levels remain somewhat supportive... so this should hold any sharp sell-offs in check," Nishi said.

The dollar stood at 87.41 yen in Tokyo trade, from 87.89 late on Monday in New York, where it last week surged to a peak of 88.41 yen, its highest since July 2010.

The euro bought $1.3113 and 114.61 yen, from $1.3115 and 115.09 yen in New York.

Seoul's Kospi was dragged lower by heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which fell 1.3 percent as it disappointed traders despite forecasting a record operating profit of $8.8 billion for the three months to the end of December.

"Investors appear concerned that Samsung may not show a better performance in the first quarter, with some of them taking profit," said Hyundai Securities analyst Bae Sung-Young.

Oil prices were lower, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, down nine cents to $93.10 a barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for February delivery lost 15 cents to $111.25.

Gold was at $1,653.49 at 1045 GMT compared with $1,654.50 late Monday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 0.43 percent, or 33.43 points, to 7,721.66.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.80 percent lower at Tw$99.7 while leading smartphone maker HTC lost 3.99 percent to Tw$276.5.

-- Manila was flat, nudging up 3.99 points to a new record 6,048.90.

SM Investments added 1.73 percent to 939 pesos, BDO Unibank gained 0.13 percent to 75.15 pesos and Philippine Long Distance Telephone dropped 0.60 percent to 2,646 pesos.

-- Wellington rose 0.14 percent, or 5.53 points, to 4,090.37.

Telecom added 2.3 percent to NZ$2.23, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was up 1.7 percent at NZ$2.47 and Metlifecare surged 4.4 percent to end at NZ$3.35.

-- Singapore slipped 0.40 percent, or 12.74 points, to 3,205.52.

Global integrated supply chain manager Olam International dropped 2.13 percent to Sg$1.61 while Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation gained 0.10 percent to Sg$9.69.

-- Jakarta ended up 0.12 percent, or 5.17 points, at 4,397.55.

State-controlled miner Aneka Tambang jumped 2.99 percent to 1,380 rupiah, while Bank Negara Indonesia rose 1.97 percent to 3,875 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur lost 0.31 percent, or 5.25 points, to 1,688.91.

Kuala Lumpur Kepong shed 1.4 percent to 22.62 ringgit while Astro Malaysia gained 0.7 percent to 3.02.

-- Bangkok rose 0.14 percent, or 2.01 points, to 1,417.33.

Oil company PTT dropped 1.20 percent to 330 baht, while power giant Electricity Generating Public Co. added 0.33 percent to 150.50.

-- Mumbai rose 0.26 percent, or 51.10 points, to 19,742.52.

Conglomerate ITC group rose 2.18 percent to 285.3 rupees while private housing finance firm HDFC rose 1.95 percent to 839.65.

--

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