Asian markets mixed after US, Japan economic data

Asian markets mixed as investors eye Europe after disappointing economic data from US, Japan

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Asian stock markets wavered Monday as investors awaited the European Central Bank's interest rate decision later this week after disappointing U.S. growth data.

South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 1,938.63 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged down 0.1 percent to 22,535.15.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 5,119.70 and stocks in Taiwan, Indonesia and New Zealand also rose. Markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for holidays.

The U.S. government said Friday that the economy expanded 2.5 percent in the first quarter over a year earlier, falling short of expectations of 3 percent growth and compounding worries about the global economy. The report came after Japan said its consumer prices fell 0.9 percent in March, underlining challenges to the government's efforts to pull the economy out of a long spell of debilitating deflation.

The downbeat reports were tempered by expectations the European Central Bank will either lower interest rates or expand financial support for the 17-country euro area at its meeting Thursday, said Lim Ho-sang, a Seoul-based economist at Samsung Futures.

Investors are also waiting for more data to better assess the health of the U.S. private sector as the weaker-than-expected growth of the U.S. economy largely stemmed from lower government spending. U.S. March housing sales and April employment figures are scheduled to be released this week.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 31 cents to $92.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 64 cents to $93 a barrel on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3047 from $1.3029. The dollar fell to 97.59 yen from 98.03 yen.

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