China stocks up on stimulus hope, other Asian stocks mostly lower

Energy Associated Press

Stock markets in mainland China extended their gains on Friday on expectations of further policy easing, but other stock markets in the region were mostly lower.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite index rose 2.2 percent to 4,287.30 while South Korea's Kospi was up 0.2 percent at 2,143.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 27,701.33. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.2 percent to 19,652.88, while Australia's S&P ASX 200 was down 1.2 percent at 5,877.90.

CHINA STIMULUS: Stocks in Shanghai continued their gains after data showed that China's economy grew at the slowest pace since 2009 during the first quarter. The data stoked expectations that the country would introduce further stimulus measures to achieve its annual growth target.

ANALYST'S TAKE ON ASIAN MARKETS: "Today looks like being a Friday consolidation for the stock market as traders head into the weekend with little in the way of news scheduled for the Asian region," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

GREEK WORRY: Asian markets were little affected by worries that Greece could default on its debts, which shot the country's borrowing costs higher. The latest jitters followed a report Thursday in the Financial Times that Greece made an "informal approach" to the International Monetary Fund to have its bailout repayments delayed. Many in the markets think the Greek government will struggle to make a payment to the IMF due next month if it fails to reach a deal in negotiations with European creditors.

US DATA: The Labor Department reports on consumer prices for March later Friday. In February, a slight rise in gas costs and broad increases in other categories lifted consumer prices, a welcome sign after three straight months of declines that had pointed to excessively low inflation.

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WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged down 1.64 points, a fraction of a percent, to 2,104.99. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped less than 0.1 percent to 18,105.77, and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.23 points, also less than 0.1 percent, to 5,007.79.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude oil slipped 32 cents to $56.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 32 cents to settle at $56.71 on Thursday, refreshing its highest price this year. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 30 cents to $63.68 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 118.80 yen from 118.98 yen while the euro strengthened to $1.079 from $1.077.