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Asian markets mixed, dollar sees late pick-up

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mixed on Thursday, while the dollar clawed back some earlier losses against the yen after Japan's parliament agreed the government's nominees to lead the Bank of Japan.

Traders seemed broadly unimpressed by another record for the Dow on Wall Street that was fuelled by upbeat economic data, while better-than-expected Australian jobs numbers were not enough to keep Sydney shares positive.

Tokyo rose 1.16 percent, adding 141.53 points to hit a four-and-a-half year high of 12,381.19, while Seoul gained 0.12 percent, or 2.40 points, to 2,002.13.

However, Sydney lost 1.18 percent, or 60.2 points, to end at 5,032.2.

In the afternoon Hong Kong was down 0.55 percent while Shanghai was up 0.22 percent.

Regional markets are seeing a correction following recent gains that have been fuelled by growing confidence in the global economy.

However, the morning's losses were reversed in some countries thanks to late bargain-buying.

Investors have been spooked by a string of figures out of China recently suggesting the pick-up after last year's growth slowdown may not be as strong as first thought.

On Wall Street the Dow edged up 0.04 percent in an ninth straight day of gains, its longest winning streak for 16 years and marking another record high.

US traders took heart from a report showing a stronger-than-expected rise of 1.1 percent in retail sales in February from January, though that was partly due to higher petrol prices.

The data lifted the dollar in New York, where it finished at 96.14 yen on Wednesday. However, the greenback -- which has risen about 20 percent against the yen since November -- sank to as low as 95.68 yen in Tokyo morning trade on profit-taking Thursday before bouncing to 95.98 in the afternoon.

The euro bought $1.2957 and 124.37 yen against $1.2956 and 124.56 yen.

The US unit got a lift in later trade after the men tapped by Tokyo to run the BoJ passed their first vote in parliament.

Governor nominee Haruhiko Kuroda and his proposed deputies Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso are strong advocates of the aggressive monetary easing that has seen the yen weaken in recent months.

They will face a final vote in the upper house on Friday.

In Sydney, shares dipped after a strong set of jobs numbers that, despite being positive, analysts said could dampen any new measures to boost the economy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held at 5.4 percent last month, defying most forecasts of a rise to 5.5 percent, while 71,500 jobs were created, much higher than the 10,000 forecast.

Macquarie Bank senior economist Brian Redican said the numbers were "extraordinary", adding: "With that kind of employment growth there is no rationale for cutting rates."

Oil prices eased, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, dropping 26 cents to $92.26 a barrel a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shedding 12 cents to $108.40.

Gold was at $1,587.15 an ounce at 0700 GMT compared with $1,592.78 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington rose 0.92 percent, or 39.95 points, to 4,381.10.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was 3.4 percent higher at NZ$2.71, while Fletcher Building added 2.4 percent to NZ$9.15.

-- Taipei fell 0.55 percent, or 43.75 points, to 7,951.76.

Leading integrated circuit chip design house MediaTek shed 2.7 percent to Tw$343.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.48 percent lower at Tw$104.0.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130314/asian-markets-mixed-dollar-sees-late-pick