Asian stocks fall after mixed US economic reports

Asian stocks fall after mixed US economic reports

Hong Kong: Asian stock markets sank on Monday after mixed economic reports about the US economy inspired caution among investors.

Major bourses were down as much as 1% after a lackluster session on Friday. Oil prices dropped below $81 a barrel and the dollar gained against the euro and fell against the yen.

Investors found few reasons to buy after US economic data released Friday painted an uneven picture of recovery in the world’s largest economy. While retail sales were better than expected last month, a weaker report on consumer sentiment disappointed traders.

Investors were also awaiting statements and policy decisions from central banks in the US and Japan expected later this week. Any fresh news about Greece’s debt woes could also steer markets higher or lower.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average lost 19.26 points, or 0.2 %, to 10,732.00. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.9 % at 21,026.92 and South Korea’s benchmark shed 0.8 % to 1,648.42.

Elsewhere, Shanghai’s market fell 1.3 %, Australian stocks lost 0.7 % and India’s index dropped 0.5 %.

Oil prices were lower in Asia, with benchmark crude for April delivery falling 42 cents to $80.82. The contract slipped 87 cents on Friday.

In currencies, the dollar was lower at ¥90.61 from ¥90.65. The euro fell to $1.3741 from $1.3685.

This week, the US Federal Reserve will be in focus when it wraps up its policy meeting Tuesday. As the Fed is widely expected to keep interest rates near zero, its outlook for the US economy and any clues to when rates will raise will bear greater importance.

In Asia, Japan’s central bank is also seen keeping interest rates at rock-bottom levels Wednesday, though there’s growing speculation it will step up its policies to keep credit and liquidity loose as the world’s second-largest economy rebounds.

In Europe, Greece is presenting the first results of its austerity measures to reduce its mountains of debt and whip its budget into stronger shape. The results, to be delivered Monday and Tuesday at a European Union finance ministers meeting, could lead ministers to decide to extend Greece financial aid, according to media reports.

Friday in the US, the Dow ended up 12.85, or 0.1 %, at 10,624.69.

The broader S&P 500 index slipped 0.25, or less than 0.1 %, to 1,149.99. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.80, or less than 0.1 %, to 2,367.66. It stands at an 18-month high.