BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets dropped Tuesday, dragged down by new worries about China's recovery and Europe's doldrums.
Japan's Nikkei did an about-face after spurting higher in the morning. After hitting 12,461.97, an intraday high not seen in more than four years, the benchmark sank 0.2 percent to 12,329.99.
The index has been boosted in recent days by the weakness of its currency against the greenback and expectations of action by the Bank of Japan to shore up the country's stalling economy once a new bank chief is installed.
Evan Lucas, strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, said Australia's resource and mining stocks took a hit from falling commodities prices and data suggesting that China's economic growth is choppy also didn't help. OZ Minerals fell 2.5 percent. Fortescue Metals Group dropped 3 percent.
Chinese economic figures over the weekend were largely disappointing and prompted many investors to book some recent gains and take to the sidelines after a rally that's seen many stock indexes around the world push up to multi-year highs.
"It does feel like an off day and people feel like taking profits," Lucas said.
The soft Chinese industrial production and retail sales figures stoked some concerns that the recent pick-up in the country's growth rate may have stalled. In addition, higher-than-expected inflation of 3.2 percent in February raised questions about the government's ability to do more to shore up the world's second-largest economy.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell marginally to 23,085.09. Australia's S&P/ASX dropped 0.6 percent to 5,117.90. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.6 percent to 1,992.14.
European stock markets fell Monday as investors waited to see if Italy can forge a government following inconclusive elections two weeks ago. A downgrade of the country's credit rating from Fitch on Friday also added to the prevailing caution.
"It's been a tepid start to the week after weekend Chinese economic data came in on the weaker side of expectations, while investors absorb the latest Italian downgrade, as well as a surprise dive in manufacturing and industrial output in the French economy," Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets, said in an email commentary.
Among individual stocks, China Railway Construction Group fell 5.7 percent in Hong Kong. China Railway Group shed 4.2 percent. The declines come days after the government announced it would dismantle the railways ministry and move its operations into a newly created company. The ministry had been under criticism for heavy debt and corruption.
The Dow Jones industrial average posted its seventh straight day of gains on Monday. The streak began March 1 and last Tuesday the blue chip index blew past its all-time high.
Boeing surged 2 percent after an executive reportedly said he's confident the aircraft maker has figured out a fix for the battery problems that have grounded the 787 Dreamliner.
The Dow rose 0.3 percent to 14,447. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 0.3 percent to close at 1,556. The Nasdaq added 0.3 percent to 3,252.87.
Benchmark crude for April delivery was down 16 cents to $91.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 11 cents to end at $92.06 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro slipped to $1.3024 from $1.3038 in New York on Monday. The dollar rose to 96.50 yen from 96.27 yen.
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