BEIJING – Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday after Wall Street declined and investors looked ahead to U.S. economic data and China's announcement of its annual growth target.
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KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.5 percent to 18,724.03 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 24,631.46. Seoul's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,997.50 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.5 percent to 5,906.80. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.2 percent at 3,257.72. An exception to the downtrend was India, where the Sensex rose 1 percent after the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates.
U.S. OUTLOOK: Investors were looking ahead to Wednesday's release of data on employment by ADP, a payroll processing company, and manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management. Those provide hints for the Labor Department's release of monthly jobs data Friday; the report is an important influence on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions and scrutinized by financial markets.
CHINA TARGET: China's Premier Li Keqiang is expected to lower this year's official growth target to 7 percent from last year's 7.5 percent when he announces the government's economic plans Thursday in an appearance before the national legislature. The lower target after a decade of double-digit expansion is part of the ruling Communist Party's marathon effort to reduce China's reliance on trade and investment and nurture more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and service industries.
ANALYST'S TAKE: The U.S. economy appears strong despite data this week showing declines in construction spending and vehicle sales, according to Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "We expect another fairly strong rise in payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate in the February employment report on Friday," said O'Sullivan in a report.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks fell from record highs and the Nasdaq dropped below 5,000 a day after passing that milestone for the first time since the dot-com era 15 years ago. Losses were modest but broad, with eight industry sectors in the S&P index falling. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.26 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,203.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 declined 9.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,107.78. The Nasdaq gave up 28.20 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 4,979.90.
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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 2 cents to $50.53 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 93 cents on Tuesday to close at $40.42. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 29 cents to $60.73 after surging $1.48 to $61.02 on Tuesday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 119.76 yen from the previous session's 119.66 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1169 from $1.1180.