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Asia markets hit as oil sinks and Fed effect wears off

Asian stock markets fell back on Friday after a two-day rally boosted by the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike, as the rout in oil prices returned to centre stage, with commodity-linked shares again taking a hit.

Exchanges from New York and Sao Paolo to London and Tokyo cheered the Fed's widely-expected decision Wednesday to lift borrowing costs for the first time in almost a decade, which was taken as a sign of its confidence in the world's top economy.

However, while European equities extended their advance on Thursday, Wall Street's three main markets were dragged down by energy firms as oil prices tanked again on weak demand, a torpid global economy and a strengthening dollar.

Some of the names in the energy sector tumbled in US trade, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, copper and gold producer Freeport-McMoRan, and mining equipment maker Caterpillar.

Those losses were mirrored in Asia, with Sydney-listed Rio Tinto down three percent and BHP Billiton falling 2.4 percent, while Hong Kong-listed PetroChina shed 2.3 percent and CNOOC gave up two percent. Inpex sank 1.7 percent in Tokyo.

Among stock markets, Tokyo was 0.2 percent lower by lunch, with investors awaiting a Bank of Japan policy meeting to see what its response will be to the US rate hike, with analysts predicting it will hold off loosening monetary policy further.

Hong Kong shed 0.2 percent and Sydney gave up 0.1 percent.

'Downward force'  

Bernard Aw, Market Strategist at IG in Singapore, said: "The bounce yesterday was not premised on solid fundamentals. Despite the mere certainty provided by the Fed action, the road ahead does not seem hunky dory for global equities.

"The fact that the US stock markets gave back... attested to that. The force on the downside is strong."

But Shanghai -- which Friday marks 25 years since its first trade -- jumped

0.6 percent on data showed new-home prices rose in November in more Chinese cities than the previous month thanks to government stimulus measures.

"The major driver this week has been US dollar strength against a backdrop of ongoing refusal to respond rationally to the current market surplus on the supply side," Michael McCarthy, a chief markets strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said.

"We're just not seeing the normal production cuts we'd expect given the plummet in prices," he told Bloomberg News.

The US rate rise sent the greenback rallying on Wednesday and Thursday, making oil more expensive for customers using weaker currencies.

That exacerbated pressure on the black gold, which has plunged about 15 percent since December 4 when the OPEC oil exporters' group decided not to put a limit on output despite a global glut and anaemic demand.

The dollar also eased back against its rivals but held most of its recent gains, while emerging currencies were mostly lower. The South Korean won was down 0.3 percent while Malaysia's ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah each shed 0.1 percent. Taiwan's dollar eased 0.2 percent. (AFP)
Key figures at 0300 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 19,307.06 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 21824.49

Shanghai -composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,602.00

Euro/dollar: DOWN to $1.0836 from $1.0824 late in New York

Dollar/yen: UP to 122.50 yen from 122.60 yen

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.4 percent at 17,495.84 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 6,102.54 (close)