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Asian markets lower, euro resilient

HONG KONG--Asian shares slipped on Wednesday but the euro held onto recent gains amid hopes of European Central Bank action to rein in surging eurozone borrowing costs and ahead of talks on debt-ridden Greece.

Investors were also keenly awaiting minutes for the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting to be released later Wednesday, which will be scrutinized for clues about the direction of U.S. monetary policy.

Tokyo fell 0.27 percent, or 25.18 points, to 9,131.74 after Japan reported a wider-than-expected trade deficit in July as exports to Europe and Asian neighbors plunged.

Sydney dipped 0.17 percent, or 7.4 points, to close at 4,376.0, as mining giant BHP Billiton delayed expansion of its massive Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine after posting a near 35-percent slump in annual net profit.

Seoul fell 0.41 percent, or 8.03 points, to 1,935.19, Hong Kong was down 1.06 percent, or 212.31 points, to 19,887.78, while Shanghai slipped 0.50 percent, or 10.56 points, to 2,107.71.

“People are realizing that markets have recently seen some highs and they are banking some profits ahead of risk events,” Justin Harper, markets strategist at IG Markets in Singapore, told Dow Jones Newswires.

European stock markets rebounded Tuesday and the euro jumped back above US$1.24 overnight as investors remained hopeful of central bank action over the eurozone crisis and cheered Spain's latest debt auctions. They slid in early trade Wednesday though, following the losses in Asia.

The markets had lost ground on Monday after Germany and the European Central Bank dampened rumors of intervention to drive down borrowing costs.

They were also buoyed by news that Spain sold 4.51 billion euros (US$5.62 billion) of short-term debt in an auction that was larger than planned, with the closely tracked eurozone nation benefiting from lower interest rates.

Traders were also tracking Greece which embarks on an uphill diplomatic battle this week to convince European partners to extend a deadline for spending cuts to keep the floundering nation in the 17-nation eurozone.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will Wednesday start meetings in Athens with Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

U.S. stocks slipped overnight despite the upbeat news from Europe, unable to maintain early gains as tech stocks dragged.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 68.06 points (0.51 percent) to finish at 13,203.58. The S&P 500-stock index fell 4.96 points (0.35 percent) to 1,413.17, while the tech-rich Nasdaq dropped 8.95 (0.29 percent) to 3,067.26.

The euro bought US$1.2465 and 98.81 yen in Asian afternoon trade against US$1.2470 and 98.84 yen late Tuesday in New York where the beleaguered currency rose on speculation that the eurozone's debt crisis may be on the mend.

The dollar was at 79.25 yen against 79.27 yen in U.S. trade.

In other markets:

— Wellington was down 0.80 percent, or 26.36 points at 3,658.38.

Fletcher Building was off 5.1 percent at NZ$6.32 after posting a 35-percent fall in annual net profit, while Telecom Corp. slipped 1.1 percent to NZ$2.775.

— Bangkok rose 0.15 percent, or 1.85 points, to 1,234.14.

Banpu shed 0.43 percent to 458 baht while PTT dropped 0.59 percent to 339 baht.

— Kuala Lumpur gained 0.15 percent, or 2.46 points, to 1,652.25.

Malayan Banking climbed 1.6 percent to 9.19 ringgit, while utility Tenaga Nasional added 0.6 percent to 6.84 ringgit.

— Singapore slipped 0.53 percent, or 16.30 points, to 3,049.47.

City Developments gained 1.56 percent to SG$11.70 and United Overseas Bank added 0.45 percent to SG$19.98.

— Manila fell 1.05 percent, or 54.66 points, to 5,152.15.

— Mumbai slipped 0.21 percent, or 38.4 points, to 17,846.86.

India's biggest mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel fell 2.82 percent to 251.35 while state-run Corporation Bank lost 3.01 percent to 377 rupees.

— Jakarta was closed for a public holiday.

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An investor watches her stocks at a securities exchange in Shanghai, Wednesday, Aug. 22. Investors were keenly awaiting minutes for the U.S. Federal Reserve's most recent meeting to be released later Wednesday, which will be scrutinized for clues about the direction of U.S. monetary policy.

(AFP)

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