Asian stock markets sank Friday as investors evaluated the latest set of corporate earnings and awaited a slew of U.S. and Chinese economic data.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 255 index lost 1.4 percent to 16,412.21 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.5 percent to 1,966.99. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.2 percent to 19,670.51 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China dipped 0.2 percent to 2,829.65. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 retreated 0.6 percent to 5,329.00. Benchmarks in India,Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and Indonesia also lost ground.
Investors hope the latest batch of data from the world’s two biggest economies will give them an idea where the global economy is headed and whether central bankers will need to raise or lower interest rates. Monthly U.S. figures for retail sales, business inventories and producer prices are due out later Friday, followed Saturday by Chinese fixed asset investment, industrial production and foreign direct investment. Investors are also wading through a wave of earnings reports, with Honda due to post quarterly figures Friday. Also weighing on investors’ minds were volatile oil prices, which sank after hitting their highest level in half a year.
“Expect short-term share market volatility to remain high,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, said in a report. “Global growth remains fragile and uncertainty lingers around the Fed and China.”
Major U.S. benchmarks cycled up and down during the day before ending near where they started. The Dow Jones industrial average rose less than 0.1 percent to 17,720.50 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped less than 0.1 percent to 2,064.11. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.5 percent to 4,737.33.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell after hitting its highest price since early November. Oil futures slid 54 cents or 1.2 percent to $46.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 47 cents, or 1 percent, to $46.70 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, lost 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $47.70 a barrel in London.
The dollar weakened to 108.61 yen from 108.99 in Thursday’s trading. The euro slipped to $1.1345 from $1.1379.