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Market Update

Asian Markets Decline; Fed In Focus

Most Asian markets pushed lower Friday as investors moved to the sidelines ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week.

The Nikkei lost 0.9% at 12.57 p.m. Tokyo time. The Shanghai Composite erased 1% and the Hang Seng retreated 0.5%. The S&P/ASX All Ordinaries was down 0.4% at the time of writing.

Mumbai's Sensex was up 0.5% in a choppy session as stocks pushed in and out of the positive territory.

Caution seems to be the key flavour as traders speculated whether the Federal Reserve would announce any reduction in its monthly asset purchase program at its next meet, and if so what the quantum would be and how it would affect global equity markets. The central bank begins its two-day monetary policy meeting on September 17th.

Investors were also eyeing some more economic data from the U.S. later today, which would probably bolster or weaken the Fed's case for a rollout of its quantitative easing program.

Later in the global trading day, data on U.S. retail sales, producer price inflation and consumer sentiment would provide some cues on the health of the world's largest economy.

Back in Asia, the Japanese government upgraded its assessment of the domestic economy for the first time in two months, saying the economy was on way to moderate recovery.

Stocks on the Move

In Tokyo, exporters continued to drag on account of the yen's strength against the dollar.

Sharp Corp. tumbled nearly 5%, Advantest Corp. erased over 2% and Toshiba Corp. gave up 1.2%.

In corporate news, telecom giant Softbank Corp. said it would receive a 1.98 trillion yen syndicated loan to refinance borrowings for its acquisition of Sprint Corp. Its shares were trading 1.7% lower.

Automobile parts manufacturer Denso Corp. said it will invest 21 million euros to upgrade two research units in Germany by 2015. Shares of Denso were up 0.8%.

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. edged up 0.1% after acquiring a Brazilian elevator manufacturer for around 2.24 billion yen.

Shares of Tokyo Dome Corp. gained 1.6% after the company posted a 54% hike in its Feb-July net profit.

In Hong Kong, resources stocks were under sharp selling pressure as investors booked profits after string of gains in the recent sessions.

Angang Steel plunged 5.2%, Jiangxi Copper plummetted 4.3% while Aluminum Corp. of China slumped over 5%.

Property developers added to the losses -- Poly Property Group fell 1.4% and Sun Hung Kai Properties declined 1.8% after it gave a lower sales outlook for the year.

Financials were also on the losers' side with largest lender ICBC giving up 1%, China Construction Bank was down 1.6% while Agricultural Bank of China dropped 2.4%.

Banks in Sydney were listless too. Top banks NAB and Westpac Banking Group were off 0.4% and 1.1% respectively while ANZ erased 0.4%.

Miners also drifted lower as commodity prices ticked lower overnight. Leading miner BHP Billiton lost 1% while Rio Tinto retreated 1.5%. Gold miner Newcrest Mining erased 1.6%.

Department store Myer Holdings extended losses, plunging 3.8% after posting lower annual profits the prior day.

In Mumbai, stocks see-sawed between gains and losses. Some top gainers on the Sensex were capital goods firms, auto players and pharma stocks. BHEL added 2.9%, Sun Pharma gained 2.1% while Hero MotoCorp improved 1.3%.

On the other side of the ladder, private banks and IT stocks dragged. ICICI Bank erased over 1%, HDFC Bank slipped 0.8% while tech giant Infosys was 0.8% lower.