Asian markets fall amid mixed news

Trader in front of stock board in KoreaAsian stocks markets have fallen, with trading thinned by year-end holidays and mixed economic news out of the US and Japan.

Benchmark oil remained above 101 US dollars per barrel while the dollar strengthened against the euro but fell against the yen.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell marginally to 8,430.32. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.7% to 18,503.67, while South Korea's Kospi lost 1.1% to 1,822.73.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 1.2% to 4,091.30. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia were also lower.

Bucking the trend was the New Zealand NZX 50, which rose 0.7% to 3,236.90. Falling between the Christmas holiday and New Year's, trading throughout the region was generally light.

Japan's industrial output dropped a seasonally adjusted 2.6% last month - the first decline in two months. But the negative news was mitigated by expectations of rebounding manufacturing and production this month and next, which helped to keep stock market losses minimal.

In mainland China, investors were "dumping shares" because Beijing has failed to take steps they expected to stimulate slowing economic growth, said Peter Lai, investment manager for DBS Vickers in Hong Kong. "Some investors believed there would be a reduction in interest rates or the bank reserve ratio. But this hasn't happened. That is why people are dumping shares," Mr Lai said.

Mr Lai said some investors are moving money from China to the United States or Europe on hopes for better economic conditions and bigger returns.

The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.7% to 2,151.97. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index sank 1.8% to 838.25.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones lost less than 0.1% to close at 12,291.35. The S&P 500 was up marginally to 1,265.43. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3% to 2,625.20. US consumer confidence surged to an eight-month high, but home prices fell in 19 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index. That report dampened investors' enthusiasm about a jump in consumer confidence to the highest level since April.
© 2011 Press Association
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