Asian stocks quiet amid holidays; Nikkei declines

Japanese stocks fall after confidence weakens; Chinese markets closed for public holidays

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell Monday after a closely watched survey showed confidence in the economy weakening.

The Bank of Japan's "tankan" confidence index was minus 3, a worsening from the previous quarter's minus 1. The index is a percentage of the companies with a positive outlook versus those who see unfavorable conditions ahead, so a minus number means there are more pessimistic companies than optimistic ones.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 1.1 percent to 8,772.19. Toyota Motor Corp. lost 2.3 percent and Nishimatsu Construction Co. slid 4.2 percent.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 4,386.70, with losses in some sectors offset by solid gains among big banks and resource shares. Trading was light due to a public holiday in parts of the country.

Markets in China, Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for public holidays. India's benchmark and Thailand's SET both edged up about 0.1 percent.

Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne, Australia said that investors are still concerned about Spain's financial health. The Bank of Spain released an audit Friday showing that seven of the country's banks failed stress tests. Moody's, the credit rating agency, is also expected to weigh in on Spain's creditworthiness.

"Moody's already has Spain on negative watch, and one more downgrade would take the country into junk bond status," Shamu said in an email commentary.

Spain is mired in its second recession in recent years with one out of every four workers unemployed. Its banks have been struggling under the weight of bad loans and failed building projects stemming from the collapse of the country's property market in 2008.

Wall Street stocks fell Friday. A report in the U.S. showing that high gasoline prices were the only reason that consumer spending rose last month also weighed on market sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.4 percent to 13,437.13. The S&P 500 index fell 0.5 percent to 1,440.67. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.7 percent to 3,116.23.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 79 cents to $91.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 34 cents to finish at $92.19 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2819 from $1.2855 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 77.86 yen from 77.99 yen.

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