Asian stock markets follow Wall Street lower; Nikkei flat ahead of central bank vote

Monday, October 4, 2010

Asian shares down ahead of central bank decisions

TOKYO — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday after a drop in U.S. factory orders undermined confidence in the economic recovery and as investors awaited policy decision by central banks in Japan and Australia.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average finished the morning session flat with the index adding just 1.53 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,877.05.

Facing slowing economic growth and a persistently strong yen, the Bank of Japan is expected to announce new steps to ease monetary policy, such as expanding low interest loans to commercial banks. But the Nikkei financial daily said that the central bank could introduce other measures as a show of force against deflation.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.1 percent to 22,643.42 while South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.1 percent to 1,876.53.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7 percent to 4,592.80 in broad-based losses ahead of a policy vote by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Some analysts expect the central bank to hike its main interest rate amid concerns about inflation.

In New York on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.7 percent to close at 10,751.27. The index lost nearly 80 points after factory orders fell 0.5 percent in August — slightly more than expected — and contracts for new homes remained far below last year’s pace.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.8 percent to 1,137.03, and the Nasdaq composite index shed 1.1 percent to 2,344.52.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 83.45 yen from 83.59 yen late Monday in New York. The euro fell to $1.3653 from $1.3665.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was down 12 cents at $81.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 11 cents to settle at $81.47 on Monday.

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