Asia stocks flat as US durable goods orders fall

Asian stock markets open flat after monthly data shows orders falling for US durable goods

Associated Press
Asia stocks flat as US durable goods orders fall
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Investors chat each other at a private securities company Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 in Shanghai, China. Asian stock markets mostly rose Monday after expectations for an imminent phasing out of the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus program began to fade. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were flat Tuesday, a day after the U.S. government released disappointing economic news.

The Commerce Department said orders for long-lasting durable goods, such as commercial aircraft, plunged 7.3 percent in July. That was the steepest drop in a year.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was marginally higher at 13,639.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 21,928.89. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,895.15 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 5,135.30.

Stock losses were kept to a minimum because markets have been seeing any piece of disappointing news from the U.S. as a reason to suspect the Fed might stick with its current monetary stimulus or only reduce it very gradually. The Fed's aggressive bond-buying program, which has suppressed long-term interest rates, has led investors to stock markets in search of better returns.

The durable goods figures followed a report Friday revealing that new home sales in the U.S. tumbled last month, raising questions about the strength of the recovery in the U.S. housing market, a key piece of the country's overall economy.

"Further US data disappointment is likely today, with the August consumer confidence survey set to decline in contrast to a likely increase in the German IFO business confidence survey," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

Markets in the U.S. were rattled Monday after Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, and suggested the administration was edging closer to a military response.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.4 percent to close at 14,946.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped 0.4 percent to close at 1,656.78. The Nasdaq composite slipped marginally to 3,657.57.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was up 52 cents to $106.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 50 cents to close at $105.92 a barrel on the Nynex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3373 from $1.3377 late Monday. The dollar fell to 98.24 yen from 98.31 yen.

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