Hong Kong: Asian shares fell on Friday following weak economic data from the United States, showing growth had slowed, while Sydney was hurt by the increasing strength of the Australian dollar.
Hong Kong opened 0.28% lower and Seoul shed 0.81% while Shanghai lost 0.24%. Singapore dropped 0.11%. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.
Sydney fell 1.17% as exporters were hurt by the stronger “Aussie”, which is approaching US$1.10 after credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s last week downgraded its outlook on US debt for the first time.
In early Asian trade the Australian unit, which is at its highest level against the dollar since it was allowed to float freely 19 years ago, fetched US$1.0947.
“The strong Aussie dollar has significantly increased the risk of currency-related downgrades for industrials with high foreign earnings,” Southern Cross equities director Charlie Aitken told Dow Jones Newswires.
“It’s also outpacing commodity prices which is negative for our listed resource stocks.”
The greenback was pressed on Thursday after US Fed chief Ben Bernanke said there was no timetable to raise interest rates while its present loose monetary policy would continue through to June.
Despite the S&P setback regional currency investors have moved out of the greenback and into more risky assets in recent months because of improving sentiment towards the global recovery.
The euro was at $1.4827 in morning trade, up from $1.4822 late Thursday in New York while it also gained to ¥120.83 from ¥120.70.
But the greenback firmed slightly to ¥81.51 from ¥81.48 after recent losses.
Asian shares fell after the Commerce Department unveiled data Thursday showing the US economy slowed in the first quarter, growing 1.8% year-on-year in the January-March period after 3.1% in the final three months of 2010.
Government spending cuts and the impact of inflation on consumers weighed heavily on the data, which was in line with expectations.
Also on Thursday the Labor Department reported new claims for unemployment insurance benefits surged more than expected last week to 429,000, the highest level since January.
Shares on Wall Street managed to eke out further gains thanks to another strong set of corporate reports.
The tech-rich Nasdaq edged up 0.09% after it hit on Wednesday its highest peak since 2000.
The Dow added 0.57% and the S&P 500, a broad measure of the markets, rose 0.36%, with both indexes at three-year highs.
In Seoul Samsung fell 0.7% after reporting a 30% fall in first quarter net profit because of poor demand for its flat panel and television business.
And in Hong Kong the first yuan-denominated initial public offering outside mainland China slipped almost seven percent on its debut.
Oil was lower on concerns about demand after the weak US growth figures. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, fell 45 cents to $112.41 per barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for June delivery dipped 17 cents to $124.85.
Gold closed at $1,535.00-$1,536.00 an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Thursday’s finish of $1,533.00-$1,534.00.