Asian shares lower after weak Wall Street finish

Asian shares lower after weak Wall Street finish

Tokyo: Asian shares were lower on Friday after the Dow Jones industrial average turned negative for the first time this year and markets awaited key US jobs data later in the day.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average slipped 0.2% to 10,514.37 as investors took profits after the index hit an eight-month closing high the previous day.

The weakness extended throughout the region as caution sent all major markets lower.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 0.1% to 23,762.28, the Shanghai Composite index was off very slightly to 2,823.93. However, South Korea’s Kospi rose 22 points to 2,077.71. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also retreated.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.5% to 4,699.30 amid lower metals prices and concerns about the financial impact of the floods in northeastern Australia.

The flooding has already had a major economic impact on Queensland, shutting down three-quarters of the state’s lucrative coal mines and devastating crops. The total cost is not yet known, but Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure coupled with economic losses could be as high as $5 billion.

Mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. tumbled 1.8%, while rival BHP Billiton Ltd. shed 1.4%.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest maker of TVs, fell 0.6% after saying its fourth-quarter operating profit probably fell to 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion).

In New York Thursday, stocks slipped after the government reported an increase in applications for unemployment benefits last week and US retailers reported disappointing December sales. The Dow Jones fell 25.58 points, or 0.2%, to close at 11,697.31, snapping a three-session winning streak.

In a week with several reports on employment, investors now await the most important one later Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly survey of all US payrolls and the unemployment rate. Economists expect the rate fell to 9.7% in December from 9.8% the previous month.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.71, or 0.2%, to close at 1,273.85. The Nasdaq composite index rose 7.69, or 0.3%, to 2,709.89.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at ¥83.30 from ¥83.33 late Thursday. The euro was flat at $1.3002.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 34 to $88.72 a barrel electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $1.92, or 2%, to settle at $88.38 on Thursday.

The sharp drop erased more than two weeks of gains on concerns that supplies will increase in coming weeks as demand for oil and gas remains soft.