China's Economic Woes Weigh On Asia Stock Markets

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china world stock markets
By AMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK -- World stock markets edged off recent highs in uneven trading Tuesday as worries grew about China's recovery and Europe's doldrums.

Japan's Nikkei 225 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 0.3 percent to close at 12,314.81. That finish put an end to an eight-day winning streak.

The index has been boosted recently 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.

The Dow, which has closed every trading session higher since March 1, also appeared to be losing steam. Dow Jones industrial futures fell 0.1 percent to 14,362. S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 percent at 1,549. European stocks were almost flat in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose slightly to 6,505.36. Germany's DAX was nearly unchanged at 7,985.99. France's CAC-40 dipped less than 0.1 percent to 3,835.57.

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 0.9 percent to 22,890.60. Australia's S&P/ASX dropped 0.6 percent to 5,117.90. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.5 percent to 1,993.34.

"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 6.5 percent in Hong Kong. China Railway Group shed 5.1 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. The Boeing Co. (BA) 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.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was down 33 cents to $91.71 a 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 $1.3001 from $1.3038 in New York on Monday. The dollar fell to 96.19 yen from 96.27 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

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