Asian stocks struggle to advance, Japan gains
Asian stock markets mostly struggled to advance Friday after data showed Europe slipped back into recession and several big U.S. retailers disappointed investors with weak forecasts.
The European Union's statistics agency said Thursday that the combined economy of the 17 countries that use the euro contracted 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. Surveys pointing to difficult conditions ahead suggest the recession could deepen.
"Although unsurprising, data in Europe confirmed that the region fell back into recession, an outcome that will do little to ease tensions," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary.
In the U.S., investors were dealt dual blows: worse-than-expected revenue from global retailing giant Wal-Mart and data showing that manufacturing weakened in the Philadelphia and New York regions, reflecting damage from Superstorm Sandy. Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, also disappointed investors by issuing profit forecasts that fell short of expectations.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 21,193.50. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,868,06. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent at 4,341.70. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore fell. Thailand and the Philippines rose.
But Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index jumped 1.9 percent to 8,998.76, rallying for a second straight day on expectations that the opposition Liberal Democratic Party may win elections next month and pursue more aggressive stimulus policies than the current leadership.
LDP leader Shinzo Abe has said he is determined to push for such policies and to find ways to weaken the yen, whose strength against other currencies has hammered exporters.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.2 percent to 12,542.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 1,353.33. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.4 percent to 2,836.94.
Benchmark oil for December delivery was up 4 cents to $85.49 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 87 cents to close at $85.45 a barrel in New York on Thursday.
In currencies, the dollar weakened to 81.06 yen from 81.21 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro was unchanged at $1.2773.
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