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Asian shares lackluster on weak US lead, profit-taking

Asian stocks were largely lower in Friday’s early trade, mirroring Wall Street’s finish overnight as the Fed-inspired rally lost steam.

Global markets cheered the Federal Reserve’s statement in the previous session, which hinted that the central bank might not pull the trigger on interest rates until later in the year.

Overnight, US stocks closed mixed as energy and materials-related counters fell. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 closed down 0.7 and 0.5 percent, respectively, while the Nasdaq settled up 0.2 percent.

Mainland bourses down

China’s Shanghai Composite retreated from its highest level since May 2008, slipping just below the flatline.

Shares of the country’s second-biggest insurer Ping An Insurance surged nearly 5 percent on the back of a 39.5 percent rise in profit last year.

Developer Poly Real Estate and China Pacific Insurance also made it to the list of top gainers, by rallying more than 1 percent each.

Hong Kong’s key Hang Seng index sagged 0.3 percent as traders digest a raft of corporate earnings.

Li & Fung tanked 5.6 percent after an 11.8 percent fall in 2014 profit, while China Mobile lost nearly 1 percent as last year’s net profit fell more than 10 percent, its largest annual drop in over a decade.

Swire Properties receded 2 percent despite its underlying profit rose 12.7 percent in 2014, hitting 7.15 billion Hong Kong dollars, versus a year-ago profit of HKUSD 6.35 billion.

Nikkei flat

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was subdued in early trade as profit-taking continues amid the yen’s rise against the U.S. dollar.

Recent top performers such as Fanuc sagged 1.3 percent, while financials like Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and SMFG drifted 0.7 and 0.3 percent lower.

However, the bourse’s fall was limited as online retailer Rakuten elevated 1.4 percent on news that it is acquiring US eBook company OverDrive for about USD 410 million. Yahoo Japan also soared 7.1 percent after announcing a dividend hike.

Meanwhile, minutes of the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) policy meeting showed policy makers debating the effect of its massive asset purchases on the bond market. The BoJ kept its massive monetary policy stimulus intact on Tuesday, as widely expected.

Kospi sheds 0.2 percent

South Korea’s Kospi index edged down amid a broad-based slump after finishing at a six-month high on Thursday.

Brokerages were in focus after the country’s chief financial regulator pledged Thursday to ease regulations on the KONEX so as to encourage startups to go public. Samsung Securities, the country’s biggest brokerage by market value, and Hyundai Securities eased 0.5 and 0.1 percent each, while Daewoo Securities rebounded 0.4 percent.

Among gainers, the country’s top cosmetics maker AmorePacific bounced up 1.5 percent, buoyed by news of a share-split.

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