Asian markets drop over worries about economy

TOKYO - Asian stock markets slipped Friday on lingering concerns about the slump in oil prices and uncertain prospects for the global economy.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 2.2 per cent to 15,836.23. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched down 0.7 per cent to 4,955.70. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 1,907.48. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 per cent to 19,254.80 and the Shanghai Composite was down 0.7 per cent at 2,841.64. Other regional markets also fell, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan.

ROUGH START: Stock markets have slumped since the beginning of the year as the price of oil dived and investors fretted about a slowdown in global growth. After that mauling, many markets rebounded in the past week but the underlying concerns that stock prices are too high relative to waning world growth remain.

THE QUOTE: "The past week saw the rebound in shares and other risk assets continue," said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney. "Shares have seen a decent rebound from oversold levels which may have further to go. But with global growth worries remaining it's still premature to say we have bottomed."

ENERGY: Adding to uncertainty weak oil prices, although there has been a rally over the last few days. Investors are hoping that a round of international talks will lead to a deal that addresses a glut in oil production, but the U.S. government reported that energy stockpiles are still growing. Benchmark U.S. crude was down 36 cents to $30.41 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 34 cents to $33.94 a barrel.

WALL STREET: A three-day rally ran out of steam on Wall Street as oil prices shed recent gains and Wal-Mart, the first major retailer to report results, had disappointing sales. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 40.40 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 16,413.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.99 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,917.83. The Nasdaq composite index slid 46.53 points, or 1 per cent, to 4,487.54.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1130 from $1.1144 on Thursday. The dollar dropped to 112.79 yen from 113.09 yen.



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