Asian stocks fall after US reports weak growth in 1st quarter; Japan central bank stands pat

Energy Associated Press

Shares fell in Asia on Thursday following news the U.S. economy skidded to a near halt in the first three months of the year. Traders were also awaiting the outcome by early afternoon of a Japanese central bank policy meeting. It kept its ultra-loose monetary policy intact, with no changes.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 2.5 percent to 19,549.43 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.6 percent to 28,240.88. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.8 percent to 2,124.67 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.1 percent to 5,771.90. Shares in New Zealand and Taiwan were higher but markets in Southeast Asia fell.

U.S. BLUES: A severe winter, weak exports and cutbacks in oil and gas drilling sapped growth to a feeble 0.2 percent in January-March, the poorest performance in a year, the Commerce Department reported. Markets registered their disappointment, with the Standard & Poor's 500 down 7.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,106.85. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 74.61 points, or 0.4 percent, or 18,035.53 points.

THE QUOTE: "A poor growth reading for the USA added momentum to selling in global equity markets overnight. European shares and bonds were hit hard, despite US investors largely attributing the weakness to transitory factors," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist for CMC Markets, said in a commentary.

JAPAN'S FACTORIES: Japan reported that its industrial output slipped 0.3 percent in March from a month earlier and 1.2 percent from the year before, on weak demand for electrical machinery, fuel products and metals. The data were not as bad as expected however, easing pressure on the central bank to further ease its ultra-loose monetary policy.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.1105 from $1.1117 in the previous global trading session, the currency's highest level against the dollar in almost two months. The dollar slipped to 118.63 yen from 119.01 yen.

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ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 4 cents at $58.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.52 to $58.58 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, fell 35 cents to $65.49. On Wednesday, it gained $1.20 to $65.84.