Japan stocks drift lower after weak US earnings

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Japanese stocks drifted lower Friday after weak U.S. earnings underlined an uncertain economic outlook and dented Wall Street. Most Asian markets were closed for Labour Day.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.4 percent at 19,431.52 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6 percent to 5,824.60. New Zealand's benchmark shed 0.2 percent to 6,190.29. Most markets in Asia and Europe are closed for the holiday.

CLOUDY OUTLOOK: Disappointing earnings from some U.S. companies added to pessimism about the economic outlook after weak first quarter growth in the world's biggest economy. While many investors remain optimistic that growth will resume later in the year that belief isn't yet being backed up stronger economic data or good corporate earnings.

THE QUOTE: "Focus remained on the U.S. recovery with investors concerned about growth stalling and employment costs rising," said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a market commentary. "Personal spending and personal income data also fell short, while earnings were more on the disappointing side. This saw investors largely ignore the better-than-expected unemployment claims reading."

JAPAN DATA: Japan's core inflation rate edged up in March and unemployment eased slightly, according to data released Friday, offering glimmers of promise for the world's No. 3 economy as it struggles to get growth back on track after years of stagnation. Though a decline in factory output and other key measures were less encouraging, the central bank kept its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged in a policy meeting Thursday despite expectations for more stimulus.

WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 21.34 points, or 1 percent, 2,085.51. That was the biggest drop since April 17. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 195.01 points, or 1.1 percent, to 17,840.52. The Nasdaq composite declined 82.22 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,941.42.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 12 cents at $59.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. oil gained $1.05, or 1.8 percent, to settle at $59.63 a barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude was down 2 cents at $66.76 a barrel in London. It rose 94 cents to $66.78 a barrel in the previous trading session.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.1211 from $1.1214 on Thursday. The dollar rose to 119.63 yen from 119.45 yen.