BANGKOK (AP) -- Weak economic reports on hiring and service industry growth in the U.S. sent Asian stock markets lower Thursday.
The Institute for Supply Management said that its index of non-manufacturing activity grew at a slower rate in March, reaching its lowest level in seven months. The index, which covers companies that employ 90 percent of the workforce in the U.S., was driven down by slower hiring and a steep drop in new orders.
A separate report from payroll processor ADP also pointed to slightly weaker hiring in March.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index plunged 1.7 percent to 12,149.17, shedding much of the previous day's gains that were spurred by hopes for aggressive policy action from the Bank of Japan's policy meeting which ends Thursday. It's the central bank's first policy meeting under its new governor Haruhiko Kuroda.
"Unfortunately, the markets' expectations of the new governor are so high that they will be almost impossible to meet, let alone beat," said analysts at Capital Economics in an email commentary.
South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.6 percent to 1,950.47 as bellicose rhetoric between North Korea and the U.S. rattled the local market. Early Thursday, North Korea warned that its military has been cleared to attack the U.S. Washington said it was working to defuse the situation.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.8 percent to 4,917.90. Hong Kong markets were closed for a public holiday.
U.S. stock markets fell sharply on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.8 percent at 14,550.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 1.1 percent to 1,553.69. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.1 percent to 3,218.60.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 8 cents to $94.37 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $2.74, or 2.8 percent, to close at $94.45 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
In currencies, the euro fell slightly to $1.2842 from $1.2847 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 92.95 yen from 92.84 yen.
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