Asian stock markets mostly trading lower

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2016 5:21 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly lower Monday after Chinese industrial profits rebounded and U.S. economic growth was stronger than expected. European markets were closed for the Easter holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent to 2,957.82 points and India's Sensex shed 0.7 percent to 25,167.97. Seoul's Kospi edged down 0.1 percent to 1,982.54, and Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta also declined. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent to 17,134.37. Hong Kong, Sydney and New Zealand were closed for a holiday. Markets in Britain, France and Germany were closed for Easter. Wall Street looked set for gains, with futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index up 0.5 percent. U.S. markets were closed Friday; on Thursday, the Dow and Nasdaq Composite Index both rose 0.1 percent while the S&P slipped 0.04 percent in light trading.

CHINESE PROFITS: Profit at major Chinese industrial companies rose 4.8 percent from a year earlier in the first two months of 2016 — the first gain since September 2014. In December, profits fell 4.7 percent. The National Bureau of Statistics cited stronger sales and a slower decline in producer prices that have fallen steadily for three years. The private sector outperformed government-owned companies, with total profit at private enterprises rising 7.5 percent while those at state industries contracted by 14.5 percent.

ANALYST'S QUOTE: Chinese profits improved because of "the release of pent-up demand" following uncertainty about central bank policy in the second half of last year, Tim Condon of ING said in a report. He noted that sales revenue rose 50 percent. "We believe steadier PBOC policy since the second week of January released the pent-up demand," Condon said.

U.S. GROWTH: The government reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the final quarter of last year, above the 1 percent it estimated a month ago. Much of the unexpected strength came from consumer spending on services such as recreation, which helped offset a manufacturing slump. Analysts were encouraged by the revised estimate, saying it provided momentum for the rest of the year, when they expect growth to reach a stronger if still-modest 2 percent annual rate.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 113.52 yen from Friday's 113.08 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1170 from $1.1165.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 30 cents to $39.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 33 cents on Friday to close at $39.46. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 34 cents to $41.37 per barrel in London. It shed 6 cents on Friday.