Asia markets retreat after strong week, eye on US data

After a positive week, investors in Asia are taking their cash off the table ahead of the weekend

Asian investors on Friday wound down after a strong week, with profit-taking weighing on markets and attention turning to the release of US growth data later in the day.

Regional equities have seen a boon this week after France's moderate Emmanuel Macron won the country's presidential first round and looked set to beat his far-right rival in the run-off, while Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited tax cut plans.

Upbeat earnings in the US have provided support, as did the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank reasserting their commitment to a loose monetary policy and Trump's decision not to scrap the NAFTA trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

However, the tax overhaul left many wondering how the president would pay for it, while analysts said the proposals added to the doubts around the tycoon.

"The market's distrust in his ability to run the government is only increasing," Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

"He has not been able to deliver most of his campaign promises. The market has had high hopes for his tax reforms. But the proposal has faced strong criticism from the conservative forces in his party that are demanding more fiscal discipline."

Also, there are concerns that Washington lawmakers have yet to pass a bill before Saturday that will prevent a costly shutdown of the US government, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree even a short-term deal to give them more time.

- North Korea tension -

"The Stop Gap bill appears stuck in the mud as the Republicans, despite controlling the majority in both House and Senate, are again and again relying on the Democrat vote as the Conservative hardliners are in constant opposition to even the most common sense spending proposal," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, in a note.

Tensions over North Korea also continue to dent confidence, after a series of missile launches by Pyongyang and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was an "option on the table".

Trump added to concerns by saying there was "a chance" of "a major, major conflict" with the North.

Tokyo ended down 0.3 percent and Seoul lost 0.2 percent, while Sydney was flat and in the afternoon Hong Kong fell 0.3 percent after a six-day rally. But Shanghai edged up 0.1 percent while Singapore, Wellington and Taipei posted small gains.

In early European trade London and Paris were both flat while Frankfurt shed 0.2 percent.

Focus is now on Washington, where revised growth figures for the first three months of the year are due to be released Friday.

The data will be pored over for clues about the Federal Reserve's interest rate plans, with bank officials saying they will make their decisions based on how the world's top economy is faring.

The Fed holds its next policy meeting on Wednesday.

- Key figures at 0720 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 19,196.74 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,614.88

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,154.66 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,238.03

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0882 from $1.0878 at 2030 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2902 from $1.2911

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.26 yen from 111.16 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 47 cents at $49.44 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 46 cents at $51.90 per barrel

New York - Dow: FLAT at 20,981.33 (close)