Asia stocks lower on concern about US, Europe

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday amid worries about weak Christmas sales in the United States and Europe and a warning by Japan's central bank about possible risks from the European debt crisis.

Tokyo lost 0.4 percent to 8,442.5 while China's benchmark Shanghai index edged up 0.1 percent to 2,191.23. Seoul, Taipei, Singapore and Jakarta declined. Hong Kong and Sydney were closed.

Investors are pessimistic amid expectations that upcoming indicators including Chinese manufacturing and Christmas retail sales in key Western markets will be lackluster, said Peng Yunliang, a market strategist for Shanghai Securities.

"The markets expect these data will be no good," Peng said. "Some people think sales data from Christmas in the United States and Europe will not be as good as last year."

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 declined after the Bank of Japan released notes that showed a Finance Ministry representative warning at a November meeting the world's third-largest economy faces "significant downside risks" due to Europe's debt problems.

Wall Street and European stock markets were closed Monday because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.

Elsewhere in Asia, Seoul's Kospi shed 1 percent to 1,838.34 while Taiwan's Taiex lost 0.4 percent to 7,066.01. Singapore's benchmark was off 0.1 percent at 3,673.14.

Asian investors are closely watching Europe, whose debt crisis already has hurt demand for exports from China and other major producers.

In the last pre-holiday U.S. trading day on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average added 1 percent while the Nasdaq composite index gained 0.7 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.9 percent.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 1 cent at $99.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.3074 while the dollar held steady at 77.92 yen.

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