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Asia markets edge lower, weaker yen buoys Tokyo

HONG KONG -- Asian markets edged lower in subdued holiday trade Monday with Tokyo stocks buoyed by a weaker yen amid dimming chances of fresh stimulus measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Tokyo's Nikkei index briefly breached the 9,200-level for the first time in more than three months as the yen initially eased against the dollar with dealers continuing to shift away from the safe haven Japanese currency.

The Nikkei ended flat, gaining 0.09 percent as late profit taking offset early gains, to 9,171.16. Sydney eased 0.13 percent, or 5.8 points, to close at 4,364.3, while Seoul ended flat at 1,946.31.

Hong Kong stocks ended flat, edging down 0.06 percent, or 11.8 points, to 20,104.27, while Shanghai closed 0.37 percent, or 7.93 points, lower at 2,106.96.

“The eventual bias is skewed downwards, as the recent market rally had priced in plenty of expectations for easing actions from both the U.S. and Europe,” said Ben Kwong, chief operating officer at KGI Asia.

European stocks ended last week higher while U.S. markets closed it out with solid gains, with the Dow hitting its highest level since the last days of 2007 and the S&P 500 just shy of its four-year peak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index ended 0.51 percent higher for the week at 13,275.20. The broader S&P 500 picked up 0.87 percent to 1,418.16, while the Nasdaq gained 1.84 percent to close at 3,076.59.

The dollar strengthened against most Asian currencies following a raft of U.S. economic data for the July-August period that was, if not full of spark, notably not negative, lowering chances of a new round of monetary stimulus.

Consumer prices were flat, jobless claims unchanged, some manufacturing indicators were lower but retail sales improved in the world's largest economy.

Gold was at US$1,615.20 at 1000 GMT, compared to US$1,617.34 on Friday.

In other markets:

— Wellington rose 0.59 percent, or 21.43 points, to 3.661.09.

Fletcher Building was up 0.31 percent to NZ$6.57, while Air New Zealand gained 1.1 percent to NZ$0.935.

— Bangkok added 0.42 percent, or 5.09 points, to 1,229.00.

Coal producer Banpu gained 2.20 percent to 464 baht, while grocery store operator Siam Makro rose 2.99 percent to 345 baht.

— Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Singapore and Manila were closed for public holidays.

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A man walks past a billboard of a bank advertising financial services in Hong Kong, Monday, Aug. 20. Asian markets edged lower in subdued holiday trade Monday with Tokyo stocks buoyed by a weaker yen amid dimming chances of fresh stimulus measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

(AFP)

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