Asian shares slip on profit-taking

HONG KONG - Asian markets sank on Wednesday, taking their lead from another sell-off on Wall Street.

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Despite a small pick-up on Tuesday, regional markets followed Wall Street's cues in the wake of the weekend's worse-than-expected trade and inflation data from China and a downward revision to Japanese economic growth in 2013.

Tokyo tumbled 2.59%, or 393.72 points to finish at 14,830.39 and Hong Kong fell 1.65%, or 367.66 points to 21,901.95.

Jakarta closed down 0.42%, or 19.83, at 4,684.39 and Kuala Lumpur's main stock index list 0.54%, or 9.95 points, to 1,818.60.

Singapore closed down 1.02%, or 31.97 points, at 3,097.43 and Manila fell 1.03%, or 67.11 points, to 6,462.47.

With few catalysts to drive business, trade was thin, causing choppiness, dealers said - while focus turned to the Federal Reserve's next policy meeting next week.

Global shares were sent tumbling after Beijing said Saturday it had seen an unexpected trade deficit of $22.98 billion in February.

The figure compared with a surplus of US$14.8 billion in the same month last year, and a median forecast of an $11.9 billion surplus. Exports fell 18.1% and imports jumped 10.1%.

The data add to growing worries about the Chinese economy, with the latest surveys on the key manufacturing sector showing weakness.

Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual in Sydney, said: "China has gone from being one of the saviours of the world to one of its weakest links."

China is due Thursday to release data on industrial output and retail sales.

A lack of guidance from the Bank of Japan on its plans for monetary policy also disappointed on Tuesday, giving traders few buying incentives.

"The lack of participants is showing what happens when there is also a lack of trading cues or a negative factors -- volatility kicks up," Sumitomo Mitsui Banking strategist Daisuke Uno told Dow Jones Newswires. "The market is up one day, down the next... there is no direction."

On Wall Street the Dow slipped 0.41%, the S&P 500 shed 0.51% and the Nasdaq lost 0.63%, its fourth loss in as many sessions.

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