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The Journal Gazette

Monday, April 09, 2012 11:50 pm

Asian stocks mixed amid US, China economy concerns

By ALEX KENNEDYAssociated Press

Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday as a four-day slump in U.S. markets sparked by concern about the strength of the world's biggest economy weighed on investor confidence.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index added 0.8 percent to 9,620.24 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 20,417.82. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.7 percent to 2,270.21. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 2,008.18.

Weaker than expected hiring in March has fueled doubt that U.S. economic growth is strong enough to justify the rally in global stocks during the last few months. The S&P 500 index jumped almost 30 percent from October to a four-year high a week ago.

In Asia, traders will be closely watching first quarter gross domestic product results, starting with China on Friday. China lowered its GDP growth target last month to 7.5 percent, sparking concern the world's second-largest economy is slowing faster than expected.

"If Chinese growth this year can come in not at 7.5 percent, but rather closer to 8.3 or 8.5 percent, then we should see a bounce in the market," said Lorraine Tan, director of equities research with Standard & Poor's in Singapore. "What will take the market to the next level are signs of a pickup again in growth out of Asia and other emerging markets."

Some analysts expect a possible recession in Europe and slowing growth in China and the U.S. will drag on markets this year. Efforts to lower high debt levels by consumers and governments also make global stocks unattractive, said David Darst, chief investment strategist with Morgan Stanley.

Elsewhere in Asia, Australia's benchmark index was down. Singapore's was up.

On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average finished down 130.55 points at 12,929.59, its first close below 13,000 since March 12. The S&P ended the day off 15.88 points at 1,382.20. The Nasdaq composite closed down 33.42 at 3,047.08.

In currency markets, the dollar was steady at 81.55 yen while the euro was little changed at $1.3134.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 13 cents to $102.59 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 85 cents to settle at $102.46 in New York on Monday.