Asian Shares Fall on Poor Chinese Economic Data

A man looks at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Asian markets tumbled on Friday after China reported weaker-than-expected economic data, stirring up worries about the state of the world’s second largest economy.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slid 2 percent to 21,374.83 and the Kospi in South Korea lost 1.3 percent to 2,068.38. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.6 percent at 26,091.03. The Shanghai Composite index fell 1.1 percent to 2,605.66. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 shed 1.1 percent to 5,602.00. Shares were also lower in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Major U.S. indexes spent the day switching between small gains and losses before settling for a mixed finish. Small companies fell and high-dividend stocks, which investors favor when they want to reduce risk, rose.

The S&P 500 index was almost flat at 2,650.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.3 percent to 24,597.38 while the Nasdaq composite gave up 0.4 percent to 7,070.33. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped 1.6 percent to 1,432.70.

Chinese industrial output and retail sales slowed in November, official data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Friday. Industrial output rose 5.4 percent over that of a year ago, compared with a 5.9 percent rise in October. Retail sales grew by 8.1 percent, down from 8.6 percent in the previous month.

Investors are keeping close tabs on Chinese economic releases amid the country’s trade dispute with the U.S. The two countries have agreed to a 90-day ceasefire on tariffs and are planning to use the time to resolve a myriad of issues.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 33 cents to $52.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.43 to $52.58 in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 54 cents to $60.91 in London.

The dollar weakened to 113.51 yen from 113.60 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro eased to $1.1356 from $1.1363.