Asian shares lower, eyes on central banks

HONG KONG: Asian shares mostly slipped on profit-taking Thursday following a healthy rally across the region the previous day, while Wall Street provided another tepid lead despite an upbeat assessment of the US economy.

Investors are now turning their attention to central bank policy meetings in Japan and Europe later in the day, as well as the release of closely watched US jobs data on Friday.

Tokyo slipped 0.10 percent after the yen clawed back some losses against the dollar, while Hong Kong eased 0.28 percent, Sydney gave up 0.29 percent and Shanghai was eased 0.15 percent while Seoul added 0.32 percent.

A strong set of US manufacturing figures that added to a slew of upbeat data on the world´s top economy helped regional markets higher Wednesday, and pushed the dollar above 105 yen for the first time since January.

However, traders took their cash off the table Thursday after Wall Street shrugged off another positive report.

The Fed said in its Beige Book report that the US economy is growing steadily with little sign of a change of pace, while businesses are generally more optimistic about the future.

The survey of regional economies reiterated the “modest to moderate” description of activity of the past half-year, and noted signs of tightening in the jobs market, with firms having trouble filling skilled positions.

The report is used by the Fed to help shape monetary policy, and will add to a growing call for its board members to hike interest rates earlier than its stated timetable of late 2015.

On Wall Street the Dow edged up 0.06 percent, the S&P 500 dipped 0.08 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.56 percent.

Attention now turns to the Bank of Japan´s policy meeting, which concludes later Thursday, with analysts looking to see if it responds to a recent batch of weak data that has raised questions about the country´s recovery.

With expectations that BoJ policymakers will announce a more accommodative monetary policy, the dollar hit an eight-month high above 105 yen this week before easing slightly.

In early Tokyo currency trade the greenback was at 104.90 yen, up from 104.78 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon, although dealers expect it to consolidate above 105 in the near future.

The euro bought $1.3147 and 137.87 yen against $1.3152 and 137.81 yen in New York trade.

The single currency has also weakened in response to comments from European Central Bank head Mario Draghi last month suggesting the lender is ready to unveil easing measures to fend off deflation.

The ECB concludes its policy meeting later in the business day.

On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October delivery fell 28 cents to $95.26, while Brent crude for October eased 35 cents to $102.42.

Gold traded at $1,272.84 an ounce at 0215 GMT, from $1,270.61 late Wednesday.