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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks fall, dragged down by Chinese lenders, Samsung Electronics

Malaysian equities also decline

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan fell alongside U.S. equity index futures amid bets that recent good news on the global economy has already been priced in.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan lost 0.6% to close at 1,370.68. Hong Kong-shares of Guangzhou Automobile Group slid 3.7% and electric carmaker BYD declined 4% after the companies rose 10% or more on Wednesday amid speculation that China is mulling measures to stimulate consumer demand for automobiles. China Construction Bank paced losses in mainland lenders, falling 1.4%, and heavyweight Samsung Electronics tumbled 3% amid concerns over its foldable phones. The South Korean electronics major on Thursday said it received a few reports regarding damage to main display of Galaxy fold phones and it is inspecting a few samples, Reuters reported.

The losses on Asian equities came amid a quiet session on Wall Street and a day after China's better-than-expected economic growth and industrial output data. Despite the upbeat data, the S&P 500 Index edged lower overnight and Asian equities struggled on Thursday.

"This suggests that a lot of good news -- both present and future -- is already baked into prices at these levels," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA. "Ahead of the extended Easter holidays and into the end of the month, the markets may be much more vulnerable to negative headlines then they have been in recent times."

In the wake of the recent dovish tilt by the Federal Reserve and data that suggested the world economy is in a better shape than was thought at the beginning of the year, the MSCI International All country Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index is up by about 14% year-to-date.

Halley's comments seemed to suggest that risk assets required a new catalyst to continue their upward momentum.

Meanwhile, Malaysian assets continued to remain under pressure amid concerns that the country's debt could be excluded from an index of global bonds. Earlier this week, Malaysia was placed on watch list for a possible downgrade from the FT Russell index that tracks world bonds. The nation's benchmark gauge slipped to fresh three-year lows, while the Malaysian ringgit dropped to three-month lows.

In other movers on the A300 Index on Thursday, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing advanced 1.1%. The company, after markets closed, reported first-quarter net profit that missed expectations of analysts polled by Reuters.

Hon Hai Precision Industry slipped 0.2%, pulling back after an 11% rally in the last seven sessions. The company's Chairman Terry Gou said yesterday that he will run for Taiwan's presidential elections.

Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group advanced 1.7% after the Chinese company reported a 24% increase in fourth-quarter retail sales in China.

China Overseas Land & Investment declined 2.5%. The mainland developer reported on Thursday a 21% increases in first quarter contracted sales.

Ping An Insurance Group edged 0.1% higher after the Chinese insurer said late Wednesday that January-March accumulated gross premium income of life insurance and health insurance business rose by 8.1% on-year.

AirAsia lost 2%. The Malaysian airline terminated a pact to form a low-cost carrier in Vietnam with local partners.

Axiata Group dropped 1.2%. The Malaysian telecom operator's unit Ncell received a letter from Nepal's Large Taxpayers Office seeking 39.06 billion Nepalese rupees ($350 million) in tax dues by April.

--Nimesh Vora

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