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asian stockHONG KONG: Asian stock markets lost ground on Wednesday despite strong performances from automakers in Japan after a report that quake-hit production could return to normal earlier than expected.

Regional markets were following a lead from Wall Street, where tech plays were hit and uninspiring data on home sales left traders gloomy.

Tokyo was off 0.36 percent and Sydney shed 0.67 percent.

Hong Kong opened 0.69 percent lower, Shanghai drifted 0.10 percent and Seoul slid 0.86 percent.

Japanese automakers were doing their best to lift the mood of the markets.

Manufacturers were badly hit by the supply chain ructions caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but the Nikkei newspaper said swift improvements in supply chains could see Toyota's production back to 90 percent by next month.

Toyota was up 2.77 percent, Honda rose 1.32 percent, Nissan climbed 1.53 percent and Denso, a major Toyota supplier gained 1.03 percent.

Overall, however, the market was weighed by technology stocks, which were dragged by weakness in their US counterparts.

The problems were compounded for Sony by the disclosure after markets closed Tuesday that security at its Greek unit had been breached with 8,500 users affected.

Hideyuki Ishiguro, an equity strategist at Okasan Securities, said the markets may not punish the company too much because the scale of the hack was small compared with the 100 million user accounts affected by earlier attacks on the company's PlayStation Network and other online entertainment services.

"But Sony's global image may be damaged further if these attacks continue, even if on smaller scale," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Investors largely shrugged off official data released shortly before the opening bell showing that Japan plunged into a trade deficit in April as exports tumbled 12.5 percent year on year due to supply chain problems.

The world's third largest economy logged a deficit of 463.7 billion yen ($5.6 billion) in April, reversing a year-before surplus of 729.2 billion yen.

The deficit, however, was smaller than the market average forecast of 700 billion yen.

US stocks closed down Tuesday as two banks predicted oil prices will rise to $130 a barrel and data showed the market for new homes remained weak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 25.05 points (0.20 percent) at 12,356.21.

The broader S&P 500-stock index gave up 1.09 points (0.08 percent) at 1,316.28 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 12.74 points (0.46 percent) to 2,746.16.

The euro fell against the dollar in Asia, weighed down by profit-taking following an overnight gain and amid lingering concerns over Greece's debt problem, dealers said.

The euro retreated to $1.4038 in Tokyo morning trade from 1.4100 in New York overnight. The unit also fell to 115.18 yen from 115.50.

The dollar edged up to 82.05 yen from 81.91.

Investors moved to lock in profits after the euro rose overnight in the wake of German data showing growth broadened with stronger domestic demand in Europe's biggest economy.

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Oil was down in early Asian trade, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July shedding 55 cents to $99.04 per barrel and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery dipping 53 cents to $112.00.

Gold opened in Hong Kong at $1,523.00-$1,524.00 per ounce, up from Tuesday's close of $1,519.00-$1,520.00.

 

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011

 

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