HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese shares edged higher Tuesday after trade data for the world's No. 2 economy came in a tad better than expected while Japan's Nikkei traced declines on Wall Street driven by the plunging oil price.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index slumped 1.7 percent to 16,898.87 and South Korea's Kospi edged 0.2 percent lower to 1,917.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent to 24,143.30 and the Shanghai Composite Index crept up 0.3 percent to 3,237.86. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent to 5,406.70.
CHINA TRADE: Customs data showed that Chinese exports grew 9.7 percent in December over a year earlier, while imports shrank 2.4 percent. The results were better than expected and gave a small lift to Shanghai shares, which had surged strongly last year but tumbled 1.7 percent on Monday.
ANALYST TAKE: "Although it stops slightly short of a return to the double digit growth rates seen earlier in 2014, today's data mean China's export sector remains one of the world's best performing," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.
JAPAN REACTION: Tokyo stocks fell as investors got their first chance since last week to react to global events, including the continued tumble in oil prices, as the exchange reopened following a holiday. Investors were also factoring in some short term gloom after the government, according a Kyodo report on Monday, cut its growth forecast for the 2014 fiscal year, which ends in March, to 0.5 percent, although it raised its 2015 forecast to 1.5 percent.
ENERGY: Oil prices continued to plumb five-year lows after Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for prices in 2015. U.S. crude was down 73 cents to $45.33 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed $2.29 lower to settle at $46.07 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price oil sold internationally, lost 97 cents to 47.73.
WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 16.55 points, or 0.8 percent, to close Monday at 2,028.26. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 96.53 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,640.84, and the Nasdaq composite lost 39.36 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,664.71.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 117.87 yen from 118.30 in late trading Monday. The euro edged higher to $1.1855 from $1.1828.