Asian markets fall ahead of United States growth data

HONG KONG  - Asian markets were lower on Friday as dealers looked ahead to the release later in the day of US economic growth figures, while Hong Kong eased on profit-taking after posting 10 straight days of gains.The Nikkei was also hit as the dollar eased back after hitting four-month highs against the yen, which has come under pressure owing to expectations for fresh monetary easing by the Bank of Japan and upbeat US data.Tokyo fell 1.35 percent, or 122.14 points, to 8,933.06 and Sydney closed 0.84 percent, or 38.1 points, lower at 4,472.4.Hong Kong slipped 1.21 percent, or 264.66 points, to 21,545.57, bringing an end to a run that had been fuelled by huge inflows of foreign cash.Shanghai tumbled 1.68 percent, or 35.57 points, to 2,066.21 with weak Chinese corporate earnings dragging on mainland sentiment.Seoul lost 1.72 percent, or 33.07 points, to close at 1,891.43 after data showed South Korea's economy grew in the third quarter at its slowest pace in three years.The United States will later Friday release its third-quarter growth figures, with investors looking for signs of improvement in the world's biggest economy.The results come a day after the Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ending October 20 -- below the average estimate of 375,000.Durable goods orders -- products expected to last at least three years -- also rose 9.9 percent from August, well above the average analyst estimate of 8.0 percent.On Wall Street the Dow climbed 0.20 percent, the S&P 500 advanced 0.30 percent and the Nasdaq added 0.15 percent.However, a rally fuelled by monetary easing moves by central banks in the United States, Japan and Europe has seen markets post healthy gains in recent weeks and dealers are taking the opportunity to cash in.In Hong Kong shares have surged more than eight percent since the US Federal Reserve unveiled its third round of quantitative easing in mid-September, as the extra US dollars flood into higher-yielding markets.The huge inflows of cash have also sent the Hong Kong dollar surging -- leading the city's de facto central bank to step into currency markets to weaken the unit against the greenback, to which it has been pegged for 29 years.The Hong Kong market has also been lifted by recent data showing that China's economic slowdown was bottoming out.On forex markets the dollar was changing hands at 79.92 yen in afternoon trade, compared with 80.26 yen in New York late Thursday, where it jumped to a four-month high of 80.34 at one point.Investors have been selling the Japanese unit ahead of a BoJ meeting next week, at which many hope it expand an asset-purchasing scheme to lift the economy and pump more money into the market.The euro bought $1.2923 and 103.30 yen against $1.2930 and 103.78 yen.Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December fell 89 cents to $85.07 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for December delivery fell $1.10 to $107.39.Gold was at $1,702.84 at 0810 GMT compared with $1,715.50 late Thursday.In other markets:-- Taipei fell 1.76 percent, or 128.02 points, to 7,134.06.Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company rose 2.95 percent to Tw$87.3 while HTC fell 4.84 percent to Tw$236.0.-- Wellington fell 0.17 percent, or 6.71 points to 3,983.78.Fletcher Building ended down 1.3 percent at NZ$7.12 and Telecom shed 0.2 percent to NZ$2.47.-- Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Manila were all closed for public holidays.

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