Asian stocks sag on China growth doubts, Wall Street drop

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets sagged Tuesday as a manufacturing survey underlined that China's economic growth is losing momentum.

KEEPING SCORE: China's Shanghai Composite shed 1.3 percent to 3,637.21 and Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 0.2 percent to 19,718.56. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 2,034.38. Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 0.6 percent to 24,351.20. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,965.10 but other regional markets were down including indexes in Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines.

CHINA WORRIES: China's manufacturing fell to the lowest level in nearly a year as new orders shrank. HSBC's preliminary manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers dropped to an 11-month low of 49.2 in March, from February's 50.7. The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. China's economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, its slowest pace in nearly a quarter century, and economists predict growth will slow further this year and the next.

GREECE JITTERS: Traders continue to keep tabs on a meeting in Europe between the leaders of Greece and Germany for signs of progress in Greece's debt negotiations. Greece faces a cash crunch in the coming weeks and is in talks with its European lenders on what steps it must take to receive more loans.

ANALYST TAKE: Analysts say stock markets have underlying support from loose monetary policy around the world and are less jittery about upcoming Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, which are likely to very gradual. "The push towards record and multi-year highs in the equity market is likely to continue in the next three months, as the Fed is on hold till June and every other central bank has an easing bias," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG.

WALL STREET: The S&P 500 fell 3.68 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,104.42 on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11.61 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,116.04 while the Nasdaq composite slipped 15.44 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,010.97. The drops were a break from the surge last week, when the S&P 500 made its biggest weekly gain since early February.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 47 cents to $46.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dipped 24 cents to $47.21 on Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 37 cents to $55.55 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was trading at 119.74 yen, down from 119.88 yen in the previous global trading session. The euro fell to $1.0917 from $1.0952.