Asian shares fall on worries over China

TOKYO - Asian shares sagged Tuesday as oil prices gave up overnight gains. A weaker dollar weighed on Japanese stocks following the release of revised data showing Japan's economy contracted in October-December.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 1.7 per cent to 16,632.06 and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.1 per cent to 1,936.07. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 1.0 per cent to 19,949.84, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 2.4 per cent to 2,828.53. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 per cent to 5,171.40 and other regional stocks also declined.

WALL STREET: Wall Street managed to eke out only modest gains after wavering through the day. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 67.18 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 17,073.95. The S&P 500 edged up 1.77 points to 2,001.76. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, gave up 8.77 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,708.25.

JAPAN DATA: Revised data showed Japan's GDP contracted at a 1.1 per cent annualized pace in the last quarter, compared to a 1.4 per cent expansion in the July-September quarter. It was a modest improvement over the previous estimate of a 1.4 per cent contraction in October-December.

THE QUOTE: "To be sure, Japan's economy fared better in Q4 than preliminary data suggested," said Vishnu Varathan, Singapore Treasury Division at Mizuho Bank. "All said, reviving growth is still the main policy challenge for the Abe administration and the BOJ," he said, referring to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan, which has implemented negative interest rates to encourage growth.

COMMODITIES: Investors appeared skeptical over Monday's rally in oil, iron ore and other commodities, analysts said. The surge was underscored by a short-lived 5.5 per cent jump in U.S. crude prices Monday.

CHINA WORRIES: Also rattling markets lately are the worries about the Chinese economy, which has been a key driver of growth. China also lowered its official growth target this year to 6.5 to 7 per cent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 44 cents to $37.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $1.98 on Monday to $37.90 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 58 cents to $40.26 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro was little changed at $1.1026, up from $1.1013. The dollar edged down to 112.92 yen from 113.27 yen.


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