Asian markets down as mixed US data weigh

admin Contributor
Font Size:

HONG KONG (AP) — Most Asian stock markets fell modestly Thursday as mixed reports about the U.S. economy dented confidence in the global turnaround.

Major indexes were down by less than 1 percent, the dollar was weaker and oil prices slipped below $83 a barrel after climbing strongly in recent days.

Investors were cautious after conflicting signs from the world’s largest economy held U.S. stock markets back overnight.

A report pointed to marginal growth in the country’s services industries in December. However, separate figures showed private sector companies slashed 84,000 jobs last month.

The employment news, worse than expected, intensified concerns that a separate jobs report due out Friday could disappoint and suggested the U.S. economy’s recovery was losing steam.

Traders are still working out the market’s direction for 2010 given lingering risks, from anemic U.S. growth to rising government debts in many parts of the world, said John Mar, co-head of sales trading, Daiwa Securities SMBC Co.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty globally,” he said. “A lot of investors are trying to get a sense of where the trade is and how to position themselves for the new year.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average lost 50.24 points, or 0.5 percent, to 10,681.21, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 46.56 points, or 0.2 percent, to 22,370.11.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s main index was down 1 percent to 1,687.88, while Shanghai’s market shed 0.4 percent to 3,242.76. Australia’s index lost 0.5 percent, India’s benchmark dropped 0.3 percent and Taiwan’s market was off 0.9 percent.

Overnight in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.66, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,573.68. The broader S&P 500 index rose 0.62, or 0.1 percent, to 1,137.14, its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008. The Nasdaq composite index fell 7.62, or 0.3 percent, to 2,301.09.

U.S. futures fell modestly, pointing to a lower open on Wall Street Thursday.

Oil prices fell in Asia as investors worried a 20 percent rally in the last few weeks isn’t justified by sluggish U.S. crude demand. Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 48 cents to $82.72 a barrel. On Wednesday, the contract rose $1.41 to settle at $83.18, a 15-month high.

The dollar weakened to 92.14 yen from 92.31 yen. The euro was lower at $1.4393 from $1.4406.