TOKYO (AP) — Asia stock markets were subdued Thursday as optimism from China's latest move to boost its economy was tempered by the European Central Bank's withdrawal of a key financial support for Greek banks.
KEEPING SCORE: The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, dipped 1 percent to 17,499.21. The Kospi in South Korea was down 0.8 percent to 1,947.22. But the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged up 0.4 percent to 24,782.72. Southeast Asian benchmarks were mostly lower but shares were up in Taiwan, mainland China and Australia.
EUROPE PRESSURE: The ECB added to pressure on the Greek government Wednesday by withdrawing a key borrowing option for the country's banks as it struggles to avoid defaulting on its debts and crashing out of the euro currency union. The move underlines the key role the ECB, the monetary authority for the 19 countries that use the shared currency, is playing in the Greek drama. Greece's new government wants to renegotiate the terms of its international bailout that has imposed harsh austerity on the country.
CHINA FACTOR: China's move to boost lending was a positive factor for markets. China late Wednesday cut the minimum level of reserves its banks are required to hold in a new move to reverse a deepening economic slowdown. The reduction will make more money available for lending and support small and rural enterprises, construction projects and other activity, the People's Bank of China said.
THE QUOTE: "The move by China, the world's second largest economy, to ease monetary policy in line with other nations and regions, is certain to work to ease market fears at a time when worries about a global economic slowdown and financial stability are growing," said Xiao Minjie, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
WALL STREET: Wall Street finished mixed Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 8.52 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,041.51. The Dow eked out a gain of 6.62 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,673.02 and the Nasdaq sank 11.03 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,716.70.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was back below $50 a barrel after its recent rebound fizzled out. The contract was up 25 cents at $48.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It plunged $4.60, or 8.7 percent, to settle at $48.45 a barrel in the previous trading session after the U.S. government reported an increase in crude inventories last week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 50 cents at $54.66 in London.
CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1360 from $1.1341 the day before. The dollar gained to 117.32 yen from 117.27 yen.