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Asian markets hit by Fed stimulus fears

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets suffered a heavy sell-off on Thursday following a tumble on Wall Street as traders grow concerned that the US Federal Reserve could bring an early end to its huge stimulus programme.

Minutes from the Fed's most recent policy board meeting showed some members were in favour of cutting short the $85 billion-a-month bond-buying introduced last year to support the economy and which has helped lift global shares.

Tokyo fell 1.39 percent, or 159.15 points, to 11,309.13 and Sydney slid 2.33 percent, or 118.6 points, to 4,980.1, its worst day so far for 2013 and biggest fall since May. Seoul was off 0.47 percent, or 9.42 points, at 2,015.22.

And in the afternoon Shanghai tumbled 2.62 percent, while Hong Kong slipped 1.73 percent.

The Fed introduced a third round of its asset-purchase scheme, known as quantitative easing 3 (QE3), in September and said it would not take its foot off the pedal until unemployment had fallen and the economy was strong enough.

However, investor sentiment took a hit after the Fed minutes showed a "number" of board members said an ongoing evaluation of the easing "might well lead the committee to taper or end its purchases before it judged that a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labour market had occurred".

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.77 percent and the S&P 500 lost 1.24 percent, with both markets having closed at more than five-year highs on Tuesday. The Nasdaq dropped 1.53 percent.

The dollar surged against the euro in New York trade, with the single currency ending at $1.3283, well down from $1.3390 the previous day.

In Tokyo on Thursday afternoon the euro bought $1.3259. The euro also sat at 123.83 yen compared with 124.37 yen in New York. The greenback fetched 93.50 yen, against 93.61 yen.

Flagship airline Qantas lifted 2.79 percent after slashing international losses and banking Dreamliner compensation from Boeing to notch a net first-half profit of $114 million -- up 164 percent year on year.

Sony slipped 1.77 percent to close at 1,331 yen in a muted response after it announced its long-awaited PlayStation 4 in New York without actually unveiling the console.

Oil prices were lower owing to a stronger dollar, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, shedding 84 cents to $94.38 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dropping 58 cents to $115.02.

Gold was at $1,566.00 at 0630 GMT, compared with $1,595.20 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 71.64 points, or 0.89 percent, to 7,957.46.

HTC rose 0.54 percent to Tw$279.0 while Hon Hai Precision fell 1.89 percent to Tw$83.2.

-- Wellington fell 1.04 percent, or 43.81 points, to 4,170.43.

Fletcher Building fell 3.6 percent to NZ$8.55 and Nuplex lost 4.0 percent to end at NZ$3.33, while Telecom was down 1.3 percent at NZ$2.21.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130221/asian-markets-hit-fed-stimulus-fears