Asian shares slide but Singapore bourse bucks the trend

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian markets retreated on Tuesday as investors took advantage of a quiet trading day to take profits after a healthy run-up over the past week.

But Singapore's Straits Times Index bucked the trend, having risen 27.33 points or 0.83 per cent to 3,325.17 at about 11am, lifted by the three local banks and bourse operator, the Singapore Exchange.

Across Asia, energy firms continued to be buffeted by tumbling oil prices, with Sydney-listed firms including Santos and BHP Billiton taking the biggest hit.

Tokyo slipped 0.4 per cent, Hong Kong fell 0.84 per cent, Sydney shed 1.1 per cent and Shanghai eased 1.47 per cent, while Seoul was 0.42 per cent lower.

With few catalysts to drive business traders took a breather after running up impressive gains so far this month, helped by a string of upbeat US data and expectations China will unveil more economy-boosting measures.

Wall Street eased, with the Dow falling 0.59 per cent, the S&P 500 down 0.73 per cent and the Nasdaq off by 0.84 per cent Tokyo, which has surged since the Bank of Japan in October widened its stimulus programme, eased as the yen ticked up against the dollar.

The greenback bought 120.66 yen compared with 120.78 yen in New York Monday afternoon.

However, the US unit is still at seven-year highs and analysts are predicting further advances as the Federal Reserve considers an interest rate hike.

"Market conviction is growing in a Fed rate hike next year," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

"Still, dollar rallies could get undercut by market profit-taking on its torrid strength while relatively low US yields risk limiting its rise." In other forex trade the euro bought US$1.2316 and 148.63 yen against US$1.2308 and 148.65 yen in US trade.

Oil prices fell further to fresh five-year lows, battered by Opec's decision last month to maintain its output levels despite a global supply glut.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery fell 22 US cents to US$62.83, while Brent crude was down 16 US cents at US$66.03.

The weak oil prices hit energy firms, with Sydney-listed BHP down 3.5 per cent and Santos off 8.2 per cent, while Woodside lost 2.3 percent. In Hong Kong CNOOC shed 3.4 per cent and PetroChina was 2.2 per cent lower.

Gold was at US$1,200.71 an ounce compared with US$1,195.20 late Monday.