Jefferson City, MO 77° View Live Radar Thu H 18° L 7° Fri H 24° L 9° Sat H 34° L 29° Weather Sponsored By:

Asia stocks muted as mixed economic signs weighed

Asia stocks muted as mixed economic signs weighed

August 17th, 2011 by PAMELA SAMPSON, AP Business Writer in News

BANGKOK (AP) - Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday as investors weighed weaker-than-expected economic growth in the 17 countries that use the euro against data showing that U.S. manufacturing is on the upswing again.

Oil prices hovered above $87 a barrel in Asia after a report on U.S. crude inventories gave ambiguous signs about the strength of consumer demand. The dollar was lower against the euro and the yen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.9 percent to 20,402.95, buoyed by a visit by Chinese vice Premier Li Keqiang, including a pledge to expand the role of Hong Kong as an offshore trading center for China's yuan currency.

"So that's why the market is up today," said Hong Kong-based analyst Francis Lun. "Otherwise, there's no bad news around, and no bad news means good news."

Beijing is trying to reduce reliance on the dollar by promoting the yuan for trade and finance. It has been promoting Hong Kong, a Chinese territory with its own currency, as an offshore market for foreigners to conduct yuan business separate from the mainland, which is kept isolated from global capital flows.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.6 percent to 4,317.60. Benchmarks in India and Singapore were also higher.

But Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 0.3 percent to 9,080.47 as a strengthening yen dragged down the country's vital export sector.

Toyota Motor Corp. lost 2.2 percent and rival Honda Motor Corp. slid 3.4 percent. Multinational conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. lost 3.3 percent, and consumer electronics giant Sony was down 2.2 percent.

Benchmarks in Taiwan, mainland China, the Philippines and Malaysia were also lower.

South Korea's Kospi, which tumbled last week amid massive foreign selling, rose 1.3 percent to 1,904.80.

Stocks around the world lost their steam Tuesday after muted German growth figures reinforced fears over the global economy.

Wall Street closed lower after a volatile day. The Dow dropped 0.7 percent to 11,405.93 - the first time in seven trading days that the Dow rose or fell by less than 100 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1 percent to 1,192.76. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.2 percent to 2,523.45.

U.S. economic reports Tuesday were mixed. Housing remains weak, but factory output rose last month at its fastest pace since an earthquake in Japan disrupted global manufacturing in March.

The mixed data suggest that the economy remains fragile but is not on the cusp of another recession.

Europe's economy and debt troubles have been among global investors' main concerns over the last year and a half. Some European countries have borrowed so much that they may need help repaying debt.

On Tuesday, the European Union reported that economic growth in the 17 countries that use the euro slowed to 0.2 percent between April and June from 0.8 percent the previous quarter. Germany's growth fell to 0.1 percent from 1.3 percent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Paris to discuss the crisis but failed to calm worries about Europe's debt problems.

The euro rose to $1.4403 from $1.4397 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar slipped to 76.69 yen from 76.78 Japanese yen.

Benchmark oil for September delivery was up 67 cents to $87.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude fell $1.23 to settle at $86.65 on Monday.

In London, Brent crude for October delivery was up 14 cents to $109.27 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.