Singapore - Asian stock markets were lower Friday as traders eyed
political upheaval in Greece and signs of slowing economic growth in
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4% to 8 972.24
and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.3% at 1 919.20. Hong Kong's Hang
Seng fell 1.2% to 19 989.54.
Asian stocks jumped in the first two months of the year
but have since traded slightly lower amid investor concern that
economies in the U.S. and China may grow less than previously expected.
Greek politicians have so far failed to form a
government after Sunday's elections undermined support for the ruling
coalition. Greece is buckling under the weight of a deep recession and
government austerity measures designed to control surging debt levels.
Meanwhile, China said Friday that its inflation rate
fell to 3.4% in April from 3.6% the previous month, giving
the government more room for possible stimulus measures. On Thursday,
China said its trade surplus widened in April as imports barely budged,
raising concern that the world's second-biggest economy continues to
China grew by 8.1% in the first quarter, down from the previous quarter's 8.9%.
"Now that you have the European uncertainty coming back
in a bigger way, I think people are going to hold back a bit longer,"
said Lorraine Tan, director of equities research at credit ratings
agency Standard & Poor's. "The key will be for China to grow at
least 8% this year to help fuel global growth and demand."
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell along with benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand.
On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2% to close at 12 855.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose
0.3% to 1 357.99. The Nasdaq composite fell marginally to
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down $1.16 at
$95.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile
Exchange. The contract rose 27 cents to settle at $97.08 per barrel in
New York on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro was steady at $1.2928 while the dollar was little changed at 79.86 Japanese yen.