Asian stock markets down but Japan up on weak yen

Asian stock markets down as investors wait for US economic data, but Japan up on weak yen

Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Asian stock markets outside Japan mostly slid Tuesday as investors awaited a slew of U.S. economic data this week to gauge when the Federal Reserve will start reducing its monetary stimulus.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 15,753.99 on the yen's weakness which helps the stock prices of export-reliant companies. The yen has resumed falling on expectations the central bank will maintain or even expand its super easy monetary policy until inflation reaches 2 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 percent to 23,898.33 and China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.1 percent at 2,205.56. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 5,257.10.

"There's a lot of U.S. data out at the end of the week and a lot of people are trying to front run what we are seeing coming out of the Fed," said Evan Lucas, market strategist of IG Markets Limited in Australia. "If they do start to have good numbers, it's not good for emerging markets."

The Fed's $85 billion of monthly bond purchases have kept U.S. interest rates low to encourage economic recovery but also sent a flood of money into stock markets worldwide in search of higher returns. A jobs report on Friday will likely shape expectations about whether the U.S. central bank will start reducing its stimulus this month or next year.

On Wall Street, the final month of a stellar year for stocks began with a thud.

All three major indexes closed lower Monday, the first day of trading in December. Investors sold shares on signs that American shoppers, a seemingly inexhaustible fuel of global economic growth, may hold tight to their cash this holiday season.

Shoppers turned out in record numbers over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, but plunked down less cash than they did last year. It was the first decline in Thanksgiving weekend spending since a retail trade group began tracking it in 2006.

The Dow fell 77.64 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,008.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 4.91 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,800.90. The Nasdaq composite fell 14.63 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,045.26.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for January delivery was up 17 cents to $93.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.10 to close at $93.82 on Monday.

The euro fell to $1.3535 from $1.3540 late Monday in New York. The dollar rose to 103.32 yen from 102.95 yen.

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