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Asian shares mixed, dollar nears five-year yen high

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Asian markets were mixed on Friday after another set of positive US economic data fuelled further speculation the Federal Reserve will announce a cut to its stimulus programme next week.

With attention now fully on the US central bank's policy meeting, each release pointing to a strengthening economy is being pounced on as another step towards a wind-down of the bond-buying scheme.

Tokyo rose 0.40 percent as the yen edged towards five-year lows against the dollar and the euro, while Sydney added 0.30 percent at the end of a week that has seen it shed more then two percent.

Hong Kong lost 0.10 percent, Seoul gave up 0.92 percent while Shanghai dipped 0.66 percent.

Global equities have seen a broad sell-off over the past four days after positive economic numbers -- including falling unemployment and strong economic growth figures -- have strengthened the argument for a December cut to the Fed's $85 billion a month asset-purchasing.

Those expectations were reinforced on Thursday after the government said November retail sales grew 0.7 percent in November, above the forecast 0.6 percent and pointing to building confidence among US shoppers, a key driver of economic growth.

The likelihood of a stimulus cut hit Wall Street, where the the Dow fell 0.66 percent, the S&P 500 declined 0.38 percent and the Nasdaq shed 0.14 percent, marking a third straight loss.

"Investors continue to fret over the Federal Reserve's policy meeting," Chibagin Asset Management general manager for research Yoshihiro Okumura told Dow Jones Newswires. "Until the Fed's decision is made weak market sentiment will continue to persist."

And Peter Cardillo, director of investment research at Rockwell Global Capital, said: "The market is positioning itself for a very possible tapering announcement. They have all the evidence needed to act."

With the prospect of less cash being printed by the Fed -- in turn leading to a pick-up in demand -- the dollar climbed towards highs not seen since October 2008.

In morning trade the greenback bought 103.47 yen, compared with 103.36 yen late in New York, and well up from the mid-102 yen range in Tokyo earlier Thursday.

The yen was also lower against the euro. The single currency fetched 142.43 yen, against 142.15 in US trade, also around levels not seen since late 2008. The euro was also at $1.3751 against $1.3752.

The Australian dollar sank to a three-and-a-half-month low of 89.26 US cents after the head of the country's central bank said he wanted to see it at 85 to help stimulate trade-exposed sectors of the economy.

Glenn Stevens also told the Australian Financial Review he expected the Fed to scale back its stimulus "before too much longer".

On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for January delivery, was down one cent at $97.49 in early Asian trading while Brent North Sea crude for January eased three cents to $108.64.

Gold fetched $1,226.90 at 0205 GMT compared with $1,242.75 late Thursday.

dan/mtp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131212/asian-shares-mixed-dollar-nears-five-year-yen-high