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Mostly lower, Sydney hits one-month highs

Written by: Staff

HONG KONG, Mar 3 (Reuters) Asian stocks were mostly lower on Friday, with a short-lived jump in the yen weighing on Japanese exporters but gains in resource issues such as Woodside Petroleum helped lift Australian shares to a one-month high.

Data showing Japan's nationwide core consumer price index rose a bigger-than-expected 0.5 percent in January versus a year ago fuelled speculation the Bank of Japan will soon end its ultra-loose monetary policy, sending the yen briefly higher.

''The figures hit the upper estimate, and now the focus is on the Bank of Japan (policy meeting) next week,'' said Koji Fukaya, chief economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ economic research office.

At 0025 GMT, Tokyo stocks <.had lost 0.56 percent as major exporters such as Canon Inc., Toyota Motor and Sony all fell.

Teikoku Oil added 0.5 percent after oil rebounded above a barrel. U.S. crude was at a three-week high of .71 in early Asian trade.

In South Korea, falls of over 1 percent for market heavyweight Samsung Electronics, Hynix Semiconductor and LG Electronics sliced 0.45 percent off the key KOSPI index ''The U.S. markets fell and that's going to pressure shares, but it's also likely some investors could come back to the market after the two-day correction,'' said Park Suk-hyun, an analyst at Kyobo Securities.

But a gain of nearly 3 percent for Woodside Petroleum and 0.9 percent for global miner BHP Billiton helped lift the S&P/ASX 200 index 0.49 percent. Earlier, the market hit a high of 4,939.5 -- a level last seen in Feb. 2.

Gold producer Newcrest Mining climbed 1.7 percent as traders bet the price of bullion, holding just below last month's 25-year highs, will hit new peaks in coming days.

On Wall Street, blue chip stocks shed 0.25 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.15 percent.


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