Asian shares broadly lower, Tokyo eyes weekend poll

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian shares mostly fell on Friday, with profit-takers moving in at the end of a positive week, while dealers in Japan keep an eye on weekend parliamentary elections.

The losses came despite another record-breaking close for the Dow and S&P 500 on Wall Street.

Tokyo fell 1.48 per cent to 14,589.91, while Sydney lost 0.43 per cent to end at 4,972.1 and Seoul slipped 0.22 per cent to 1,871.41. Hong Kong was flat, nudging 17.2 points up to 21,362.42, while Shanghai tumbled 1.52 per cent to 1,992.65.

Global equities rose this week after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke told lawmakers in Washington that the bank's US$85 billion (S$107 billion) a month bond-buying scheme would be kept in place as long as the economy needed it.

"Bernanke's testimony has reassured the markets that a relatively low interest rate environment will remain in place for the time being," SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi said.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 0.5 per cent and the S&P 500 ended 0.5 per cent higher, thanks to another batch of impressive earnings reports from corporate America. Mr Bernanke's assurances over the stimulus also provided strong support.

However, with few new trading cues most markets drifted lower as dealers wound up for the weekend.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei plummeted primarily on futures selling in anticipation of a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party in Sunday's vote.

"Foreign investors are the most common buyers of futures and had been picking them up over the last 10 days or so in anticipation of the Sunday Upper House Diet elections," Tachibana Securities market advisor Kenichi Hirano said.

"It's very possible that with an overheated and thin-volume market, they are testing to see how far the Nikkei could fall," he told Dow Jones Newswires.