Asian Markets Mostly Down Despite Europe Rate Cuts

Asian markets were mostly lower Friday as a slew of dismal U.S. economic news overshadowed big rate cuts from central banks in Europe. Oil traded near four-year lows.

Japan's Nikkei 225 average slipped 6.73 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,917.51 and markets in Australia, Shanghai, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia also retreated. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 1.9 percent to 13,771.05 and South Korea's Kospi was up 2.1 percent at 1,028.13.

"There is no major funding going into the market, so it is losing momentum," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "Major investors are still staying on the sidelines," he said.

Big interest-rate cuts by the European Central Bank and Bank of England failed to give much of a lift to sentiment and investors also contended with a raft of weak data on the world's largest economy.

On Wall Street Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average slid 215.45 points, or 2.5 percent, to 8,376.24.

The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits last week reached its highest level in 26 years, while factory orders plunged a higher-than-expected 5.1 percent in October. A U.S. Labor Department unemployment report due Friday was expected to show the jobless rate rose to 6.8 percent in November as companies slashed 320,000 jobs.

Wall Street futures pointed to modest gains in the U.S. on Friday with Dow futures up 21 points, or 0.3 percent, at 8423 and S&P500 futures up 2.4 points, or 0.3 percent, at 849.

Mainland China's shares were mixed, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipping 0.6 percent, to 1,989.57. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose on expectations that government stimulus policies will help listed small and medium-size businesses.

Shanghai market heavyweight PetroChina fell 1.1 percent to 11.48 yuan as oil prices slipped to their lowest level in four years, dipping below $44 a barrel in Asian trading.

Major banks were also lower, as investors sold to net profits from recent gains, with Bank of China falling 0.9 percent and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China losing 0.3 percent by midday.

Australia's All Ordinaries index slipped 1.2 percent as resource shares fell on expectations of falling demand. Mining giant BHP Biliton tumbled 4.9 percent and Woodside Petroleum was down 2.1 percent.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery was up 27 cents at $43.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midafternoon in Singapore. The contract fell overnight $3.12 to settle at $43.67, the lowest since January 2005.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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