Asia stocks limp as focus shifts back to China economy

AP News
Posted: Mar 02, 2015 10:51 PM
Asia stocks limp as focus shifts back to China economy

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were lackluster Tuesday despite a record day on Wall Street after Australia left interest rates unchanged and investors looked ahead to the release of China's growth target.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 18,769.37 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 24,883.55. China's Shanghai Composite fell 1.1 percent to 3,299.43 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 5,938.30. Seoul's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,000.87. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.

AUSTRALIA RATE: The Reserve Bank of Australia left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2.25 percent, disappointing investors who expected it would be cut to a record low of 2 percent. The central bank cut the interest rate at its last meeting in early February, responding to a slowdown in Australia's economy triggered by reduced commodity demand from China. It left the door open to a rate cut or rate cuts later in the year.

CHINA MEETING: China's ceremonial legislature starts its annual session on Thursday and is expected to announce a growth target for 2015. Last year's target was 7.5 percent, which China narrowly missed, posting growth of 7.4 percent that was the slowest in 24 years. There are expectations the target will be lower this year as China manages a multiyear shift in its economy away from industrial led growth to more emphasis on consumers and services.

WALL STREET: The Nasdaq composite marked a dot-come milestone, closing above 5,000 for the first time since its dot-com era peak nearly 15 years ago. The Nasdaq rose 44.57 points, or 0.9 percent. The S&P 500 closed up 12.89 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,117.39. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 155.93 points, or 0.9 percent, to 18,288.63.

NASDAQ MILESTONE: The long climb back for the Nasdaq, once a symbol of investor recklessness and self-delusion, has been marked by significant changes in its composition. Telecommunications stocks now represent less than 1 percent of the index, versus 12 percent in 2000. Gone also is the heavy reliance on Internet companies with little or no earnings.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 28 cents to $49.87 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 17 cents to close at $49.59 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 80 cents to $60.34 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was trading at 119.74 yen, down from its previous close of 120.14 yen. The euro was little changed at $1.1192 from $1.1183.