Asian shares mostly lower

Asian markets closed mostly lower on Tuesday ahead of the release of key US data later as a strong lead from Wall Street was offset by profit-taking, while Chinese shares were hit by fresh liquidity concerns.

Tokyo jumped 1.44%, or 213.92 points, to 15,051.60 and Seoul added 0.81%, or 15.81 points, to close at 1,964.86.

However, Hong Kong lost 0.32%, or 71.36 points to end at 22,317.20, Shanghai gave up earlier gains and closed 2.04% lower, shedding 42.47 points to 2,034.22, and Sydney eased 0.12%, or 6.4 points, to 5,433.8.

With few catalysts to drive business, attention has turned to the US economic figures including gross domestic product growth on Friday. This week will also see the release of February consumer confidence, durable goods orders and initial jobless claims.

The results will be closely watched as they will give the clearest snapshot of economic health this year, with previous releases skewed by severe winter weather at the end of last year and the start of this one.

On Wall Street US shares pushed higher on Monday, with analysts saying investors were growing more confident about the US recovery and viewed recent weak figures as the result of the bad weather.

The broad-market S&P 500 rose 0.62%, just short of a record high, while the Dow added 0.64% and the Nasdaq was up 0.69%.

While Asian shares suffered a pull-back on Tuesday, global markets have in recent weeks clawed back some of the losses they suffered in January that were fuelled by the US Federal Reserve's decision to cut its stimulus programme for a second straight month.

In China, fresh concerns over liquidity in financial markets spooked investors as the country's central bank effectively drew cash out of the system as it continues to fret over possible bad debts among lenders.

The move sparked worries of another cash crunch similar to those seen last year that sent stocks plunging.

Property plays were also under pressure after some mainland lenders said they would step back from making loans to developers as prices continue to surge in China.

"The market is cautious, as a slowdown in the housing market leads investors to be concerned about the health of the general economy," Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told AFP.

In currency trade the dollar was at 102.30 yen compared with 102.48 yen in New York late Monday.

The euro bought $1.3753 and 140.66 yen against $1.3734 and 140.76 yen.

There was little immediate reaction to news that Italy's new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had won a confidence vote in the Senate following the ousting of Enrico Letta over his failure to boost the economy.

The new premier called for a "radical and immediate change" in recession-hit Italy as he outlined his new government's reform agenda including overhauling the tax system, jobs market and public administration.

Oil prices slipped. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, fell 70 cents to $102.12 and Brent North Sea crude for April was down 55 cents at $110.09.

Gold fetched $1,336.69 an ounce at 0820 GMT, compared to $1,333.44 late Monday.

In other markets, Taipei rose 0.18%, or 15.01 points, to 8,575.62.

Smartphone maker HTC rose 1.93% to NT$132.0 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was up 0.93% percent at NT$108.

Wellington was flat, edging down 2.13 points to 4,967.51. Fletcher Building was off 1.52% at NZ$9.72 and Air New Zealand added 0.29% to NZ$1.745.

Manila closed flat, dipping 0.77 points to 6,295.55. Megaworld Corp rose 3.48% to 4.16 pesos and Universal Robina added 1.83% to 133.40 pesos but SM Prime Holdings tumbled 3.09% to 14.42 pesos.

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