Asian stocks tumble as central banks look to ease interest rates cuts

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Asian stock markets were mostly weaker on Thursday after Wall Street fell for a third day and New Zealand's central bank signalled it had finished cutting interest rates.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.3 per cent to 19,049.66 and South Korea's Kospi was down 0.1 per cent to 1,946.13. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.6 per cent to 5,001.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2 per cent to 21,771.30 but China's Shanghai Composite index gained 0.2 per cent to 3,477.20. Stocks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore were lower.

CENTRAL BANKS: New Zealand's central bank cut interest rates for the fourth time in six months by a quarter percentage point to 2.5 per cent. But it also signalled that it is not planning further cuts as inflation is expected to rise. Analysts said it was the latest sign that the central banks in developed countries, from Europe to Japan and the United States, are done with monetary easing.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The next conclusion to be drawn is that central bank easing globally is at an end," said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia. "Are we now at that point where central banks have steered the global economy though the post-GFC era?"

DATA WATCH: Later in the day, the U.S. Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. That will give investors the latest update on the U.S. job market a week before a Federal Reserve meeting that is expected to raise interest rates from a record low. In last Thursday's report, more people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits, but the levels remain near historic lows that indicate a healthy job market.

WALL STREET: U.S. stock markets closed lower for a third session on Wednesday, as losses in technology shares weighed. The Dow index lost 75.70 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,492.30. The S&P 500 gave up 15.97 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 2,047.62. The Nasdaq composite dropped 75.38 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 5,022.87.

ENERGY: Oil recovered moderately from the previous session but it was still lower than the closing price on Feb. 13, 2009 when the global economy was deep in crisis. Benchmark U.S. crude was up 25 cents at $37.40 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after falling 35 cents to close at $37.16 in New York on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 31 cents to $40.42 in London. On Wednesday, the International Energy Agency's chief said he expected oil prices to remain low next year.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 121.64 yen from 121.59 in the previous trading session. The euro fell to $1.1007 from $1.1023.


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