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Asian stocks mostly lower ahead of Fed meeting

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mostly lower in quiet trade on Friday, at the end of a positive week for investors, as attention turns to next week's US Federal Reserve meeting.

Wall Street provided a soft lead, with no fresh cues to spur buying, as dealers await the Fed's plans for its huge stimulus programme.

Tokyo rose 0.12 percent, or 17.40 points, to 14,404.67 thanks to a pick-up in the dollar against the yen, but Sydney drifted 0.44 percent, or 22.9 points, lower to 5,219.6 after almost ending at a five-year high on Thursday.

Seoul finished 0.49 percent, or 9.74 points, down at 1,994.32 while Shanghai shed 0.86 percent, or 19.39 points, to 2,236.22. In the afternoon Hong Kong gave up 0.44 percent.

Global markets have enjoyed a bright week following a string of upbeat Chinese data -- including on trade and factory output -- indicating the world's number two economy may have turned a corner after suffering a slowdown in the first half of the year.

Figures showed Japan's economy grew faster than initially thought in the April-June quarter while concerns over a possible US-led strike on Syria also abated.

Eyes are now on Washington, where the Fed will hold a two-day policy meeting to decide on its next move for its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying scheme.

Most analysts expect the bank to begin winding down this month as the US economy strengthens, although last week's below-forecast jobs figures suggest it will only reduce its bond purchases by a small amount.

"A relatively large cutback in purchases of $20 billion or more would suggest the Fed is likely to unwind the programme fairly quickly unless economic conditions deteriorate," CMC Markets' chief market analyst Ric Spooner said in a note, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

On Wall Street, the Dow fell 0.17 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.24 percent while the S&P 500 slipped 0.34 percent, bringing an end to its seven-session winning streak.

In Tokyo currency trade the dollar rose to 99.72 yen, compared with 99.47 yen in New York.

The euro was at $1.3280 and 132.42 yen against $1.3298 and 132.33 yen.

The European unit suffered some selling pressure after data showed eurozone industrial output fell 1.5 percent in July compared with June.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi also gave a cautious outlook on the European economy, calling the recent signs of recovery "still very, very green".

Worries about Syria have abated as US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart hold talks aimed at getting the Assad regime to give up its chemical weapons, and so avoid an American military strike.

Damascus on Thursday said it would sign up to the global convention banning chemical weapons after Russia proposed a plan to put its toxic arsenal under international control.

Global markets dived at the end of last month on expectations of a US attack, which analysts had feared would lead to a wider Middle East conflict.

On oil markets, New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October, eased 17 cents to $108.43 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for October $1.11 to 111.52.

Gold cost $1,316.49 an ounce at 0705 GMT compared with $1,341.30 late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 0.69 percent, or 57.16 points, to 8,168.2.

Hon Hai rose 0.27 percent to Tw$75.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. fell 0.97 percent to Tw$102.5.

-- Wellington added 0.20 percent, or 9.45 points, to close at 4,650.94.

Telecom advanced 1.1 percent to NZ$2.28 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare also climbed 1.1 percent to NZ$3.75.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130913/asian-stocks-mostly-lower-ahead-fed-meeting