Asian stocks meander in holiday-thinned trading; China imports data suggests weak demand

Markets Associated Press

Asian stock markets meandered in holiday-thinned trading Monday after Chinese trade figures suggested domestic demand is lackluster.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.2 percent to 15,682.18 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5 percent to 25,113.73. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.5 percent to 5,570.50. Stock benchmarks rose in Indonesia and the Philippines while Singapore fell. Markets in China, South Korea and Taiwan were shut for public holidays.

CHINA TRADE: Exports from the world's No. 2 economy rose 9.4 percent in August from a year earlier but imports dropped 2.4 percent, which indicates slack domestic demand. Some economists say additional stimulus is needed to prevent China's growth rate from waning after mini-stimulus measure helped it tick up to 7.5 percent in the second quarter.

ALI-BUSTER: China's Alibaba Group is seeking to raise up to $24.3 billion from its upcoming share sale, which would be the largest initial public offering ever. The e-commerce company and its early investors are hoping to sell up to 368 million shares for $60 to $66 apiece, according to a regulatory filing late Friday that sets the stage for Alibaba Group Ltd. to make its long-awaited debut on the New York Stock Exchange later this month.

THE QUOTE: "We see a rather muted week of data, with markets likely to take direction from geopolitical factors like the cease-fire in Ukraine at the forefront. Some other key events to look out for include the launch of the iPhone 6 and a new category of wearables, and developments out of Alibaba's IPO," said CMC Markets analyst Desmond Chua.

WALL STREET: U.S. markets shrugged off a smaller-than-expected increase in employment for August. Geopolitical trends such as a cease-fire agreement between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists helped lift the S&P 500 index to a fresh record of 2,007.71 on Friday, the 33rd record high so far this year. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.4 percent, to 17,137.36.

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CURRENCIES: The euro remained firm at $1.2954 versus its Friday close of $1.2952. The euro has rebounded from its recent slump which was triggered when the European Central Bank last week surprised markets by cutting interest rates and announcing a new stimulus program. The U.S. dollar, which traded last week near six-year highs, was nearly flat at 105.07 yen compared with 105.10 yen on Friday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil for October delivery was down 8 cents to $93.21 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.16, or 1.2 percent, to $93.29 a barrel in New York on Friday after falling $1.09 on Thursday as the Ukraine cease-fire eased supply fears.