Asian shares mixed on Wall Street losses and Ukraine tensions

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets were mostly lower Monday following a negative lead from Wall Street, while tensions in Ukraine added to selling pressure.

Traders were awaiting the release later in the week of global manufacturing data as well as earnings reports from Japan, while the United States Federal Reserve is also due to hold its latest policy meeting.

Tokyo slipped 1.15 per cent by the break, Hong Kong eased 0.47 per cent and Shanghai lost 0.16 per cent, while Sydney added 0.15 per cent and Seoul rose 0.11 per cent.

US shares sank on Friday, led by the tech-rich Nasdaq, after a disappointing earnings report from Amazon while the face-off in Ukraine also hurt buying sentiment.

The Dow fell 0.85 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.81 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbled 1.75 per cent.

Pro-Russian militants presented a captured team of international observers as "prisoners of war" in Ukraine Sunday, adding fuel to the crisis as US President Barack Obama warned Moscow against "provocation".

Obama said Russia had "not lifted a finger" to implement a peace deal struck in Geneva on April 17 to ease the crisis. He added that Moscow faced "consequences, and those consequences will continue to grow".

Obama and his Western allies are planning a new round of sanctions against Moscow that could be introduced as early as Monday.

The escalating crisis saw Moscow last week order new military exercises on the border of Ukraine and warn of "consequences" after Kiev launched a deadly assault against pro-Kremlin rebels occupying a flashpoint town.

There are fears Moscow is planning to take over more Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine in a similar way to that which saw it absorb Crimea last month.

In currency trade the dollar dipped to 102.10 yen from 102.19 yen in New York Friday.

The euro bought US$1.3820 and 141.10 yen against US$1.3832 and 141.36 yen.

Investors are keeping an eye on this week's release of April manufacturing activity data, hoping to see some signs of a pick-up in China after a preliminary report from HSBC pointed to a slight improvement.

And in Washington the Fed will hold its two-day policy meeting. It is expected to further cut its stimulus programme following a string of figures showing the world's number one economy is improving.

Oil prices rose. US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, climbed 34 cents to US$100.94 in early Asian trading. Brent North Sea crude for June also rose 24 cents to US$109.82.

Gold fetched US$1,305.03 an ounce at 0210 GMT compared with US$1,300.55 on Friday.