Asian stock markets drift lower as investors ponder economic stimulus for China

HONG KONG - Most Asian stock markets drifted lower Tuesday in thin trade as investors pondered the outlook for more economic stimulus from China.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.1 per cent to 18,892.81 while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 per cent to 1,975.24. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.1 per cent to 21,765.44 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China shed 0.3 per cent to 3,631.82. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 crept up 0.1 per cent to 5,115.30.

CHINA ECONOMY: Leaders in Beijing wrapped up their annual planning meeting Monday with renewed promises to promote economic growth. The Chinese government said it would be more proactive and flexible when it comes to using fiscal and monetary policy in order to keep growth in a "proper range," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing an official statement. That's raised hopes among some investors that Beijing will take more steps to support flagging growth in the world's No. 2 economy.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The statements indicated that Beijing is concerned about allowing the economy slowing too much. They could suggest that we may only see a moderate GDP deceleration next year," said Bernard Aw of IG. However, "as a whole, risk appetite will not be in abundance today."

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks posted moderate gains in a quiet trading day, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding 0.7 per cent to close at 17,251.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.8 per cent to 2,021.15 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.9 per cent to 4,968.92.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil futures climbed 23 cents to $36.04 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 25 cents to settle at $35.81 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was up 15 cents to $36.50 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro slipped to $1.0917 from $1.0909 in the previous day's trading. The dollar rose to 121.23 yen from 121.10 yen.



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