Asia stocks drift, Tokyo steadies after weak data

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets drifted Friday following Japanese data showing that the region's second biggest economy is struggling to recover from a sales tax hike. European shares were marginally higher even as a report said eurozone inflation slipped.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX inched 0.2 percent higher to 9,478.67 and France's CAC 40 edged up 0.1 percent to 4,371.46. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent to 6,812.29. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher, with Dow futures rising 0.2 percent to 17,109.00. Broader S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent to 2,000.90.

ASIA'S DAY: The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, slipped 0.2 percent to close at 15,424.59. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.4 percent to 2,068.54 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 24,742.06. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index swung between gains and losses before closing 1 percent higher at 2,217.20. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 5,625.90. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia also slipped.

TOKYO TALES: The latest monthly data showed that the world's third-largest economy remained in the doldrums despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stimulus program. In July, inflation was unchanged from the previous month, real incomes slipped 6.2 percent from a year earlier and unemployment edged higher to 3.8 percent.

EUROPEAN PRICES: European investors were digesting data that showed inflation in the 18-country eurozone fell to 0.3 percent in August, the latest sign that the continent's recovery is still unsteady. Inflation is nowhere close to the European Central Bank's goal of just under 2 percent, and fears are growing that the eurozone may fall into a crippling deflationary spiral.

GEOPOLITICS: More economic reports are due later from the U.S. but jittery investors are watching the Ukraine conflict for signs of further escalation after the country's president reported that Russian forces had entered the country. "While a barrage of economic data is due for release tonight, the (U.S.) personal spending, inflation, wage, Chicago PMI and consumer sentiment data will likely be sidelined by developments out of Ukraine," said Desmond Chua of CMC Markets.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 51 cents to $95.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 67 cents to settle at $94.55 on Thursday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 103.90 yen from 103.68 in late trading Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.3177 from $1.3185.