Asia stocks slip on weakness in US retail sales

Asian stocks slip after big US retailers show signs of struggle

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday after disappointing U.S. retail sales stirred concerns about the robustness of the recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

Major retailers such as Costco and Macy's reported that April revenue rose less that 1 percent — the worst performance since 2009 when the U.S. economy was just coming out of a bad recession.

That put a crimp in trading in Asia, where many exporters are reliant on demand from American consumers. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8 percent to 21,089.17 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 1,987.46. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 percent to 4,393.90. Benchmarks in Singapore, New Zealand and Indonesia fell. Mainland China and Taiwan rose.

Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.

Investor nerves have also been tested by a report that showed U.S. businesses adding far fewer jobs in April than they did in March.

Markets are now focusing on Friday's release of U.S. monthly hiring for clues to the U.S. economy's health and on the French presidential election runoff this weekend, according to Andrew Sullivan, principal sales trader at Piper Jaffray in Hong Kong.

"People are already in defense positions and are happy to stay there. Turnover has been light. There is no panic taking place, but people remain very defensive," he said.

Polls suggest that France's presidential election on Sunday will be won by Socialist contender Francois Hollande, and that may lead to a different emphasis in Europe's ongoing struggle to deal with its massive debt problems.

"Markets don't like change," Sullivan said. "There is quite a lot of risk in there that will upset the apple cart."

In stock trading, Australian flagship airline Qantas Airways slid 1.2 percent after saying it will cut spending next financial year by delaying delivery of new A380 aircraft.

Korean Air Lines Co. jumped 4.4 percent and Taiwan's EVA Airways Corp. rose 3.3 percent as softening oil prices helped boost profit outlooks in an industry highly sensitive to fuel costs.

A suspension on shares of Hong Kong-listed Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. was set to be lifted in the afternoon after the company said a corruption probe involving Chairmen Raymond and Thomas Kwok spread to their estranged brother, Walter Kwok, who was arrested and released on bail late Thursday.

The disappointing April retail sales figures weighed on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to 13,206.59. The S&P 500 dropped 0.8 percent to 1,391.57. The Nasdaq composite average slid 1.2 percent to 3,024.30.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 8 cents to $102.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.68 to settle at $102.54 in New York on Thursday.

The dollar fell to 80.16 yen from 80.29 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro was unchanged at $1.3151.

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