Asian shares lower, Tokyo hurt by rising yen

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Asian shares mostly fell Wednesday on profit-taking after recent gains, with Tokyo suffering heavy losses as the yen rebounded strongly following weeks of steep declines.

Suppliers of Boeing's Dreamliner slid in Tokyo after two Japanese airlines grounded their fleets of the aircraft after one made an emergency landing, but shares of the carriers themselves did not take a big hit.

Analysts said that Boeing, which is traded mainly in New York, would likely be the focus of investor concern.

Tokyo ended 2.56 percent, or 278.64 points, lower at 10,600.44 and Shanghai slipped 0.70 percent, or 16.18 points, to 2,309.50.

Seoul dropped 0.32 percent, or 6.29 points, to 1,977.45 and Hong Kong was off 0.10 percent, or 24.52 points, to 23,356.99. But Sydney put on 0.46 percent, or 21.8 points, to close at 4,738.4.

Asian markets had kicked off the year on a high note, rallying strongly after US lawmakers clinched a deal to avert a "fiscal cliff" of across-the-board tax hikes and automatic spending cuts.

But regional bourses have begun to fall back as traders take profits, analysts said.

Tokyo led Wednesday's falls as the yen extended a strong rebound that started the previous day after Japan's economy minister warned the unit's slide in recent weeks could jeopardise a recovery by raising the price of imports.

In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar slipped to 88.07 yen against 88.80 yen in New York Tuesday afternoon, while the euro fetched 117.00 yen against 118.14 yen in US trading. The euro was also weaker at $1.3284 from $1.3304.

"It's clear the currency was primed for a short and sharp reprieve, and (the economy minister's) comments appear to be partly an excuse for a period of consolidation," Chris Gore, currency analyst at Go Markets in Melbourne, said in a note, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The Japanese unit had fallen since late last year when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power vowing to resuscitate the country's moribund economy, with a weak yen boosting exporters by making their products more competitive overseas.

Also in Tokyo, shares in suppliers of Boeing's troubled Dreamliner fell after All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded their entire fleets after an ANA plane made an emergency landing in southwest Japan due to a battery problem.

But shares in Japan's two biggest airlines were mixed following the latest problem for the aircraft, with ANA losing 1.62 percent to 182 yen in Tokyo trade and Japan Airlines up 1.80 percent at 3,675 yen.

Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management, told Dow Jones: "Boeing has been hit badly, but focus hasn't been on either ANA or JAL thus far."

Investors were also looking ahead to Chinese growth data for the fourth quarter and all of 2012 due to be released Friday, which is expected to confirm the world's second-largest economy is picking up after a slowdown, dealers said.

Oil rebounded. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February was up 26 cents to $93.53 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery climbed 36 cents to $110.66 in the afternoon.

Gold was at $1,678.80 at 1030 GMT compared with $1,680.90 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington fell 0.04 percent, or 1.72 points, to 4,169.23.

Air New Zealand was down 1.16 percent at NZ$1.28, Contact Energy lost 0.58 percent to NZ$5.16 and Fletcher Building was up 0.11 percent at NZ$8.89.

-- Taipei slipped 0.83 percent, or 64.59 points, to 7,700.43.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co shed 1.29 percent at Tw$99.2 while leading smartphone maker HTC was 0.52 percent higher at Tw$289.0.

-- Manila retreated 0.66 percent, or 40.15 points, to 6,047.52.

Top-traded Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. fell 0.37 percent to 2,698 pesos while rival Globe Telecom dropped 0.27 percent to 1,092 pesos.

-- Singapore closed up 0.39 percent, or 12.43 points, to 3,208.50.

DBS Bank fell 0.14 percent to Sg$14.36 while Singapore Airlines gained 0.09 percent to Sg$11.08.

-- Jakarta ended up 0.23 percent, or 10.14 points, to 4,410.96.

Retailer Hero Supermarket jumped 5.49 percent to 4,800 rupiah and food manufacturer Indofood Sukses Makmur rose 1.65 percent to 6,150 rupiah.

-- Bangkok lost 0.47 percent, or 6.72 points, to 1,416.14.

Oil company PTT added 0.30 percent to 336.00 baht, while coal producer Banpu dropped 1.49 percent to 396.00 baht.

-- Mumbai slid 0.85 percent or 169.19 points to 19,817.63.

Mobile phone firm Reliance Communications slid 5.93 percent to 80.95 rupees while private aluminium producer Hindalco fell 4.38 percent to 123.4.

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