Asian stock markets drift after lackluster US retail sales data hits sentiment

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets drifted Thursday after weak retail sales figures suggested the U.S. economy is struggling to maintain growth momentum.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 1 percent to 19,570.24 in afternoon trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.3 percent to 5,696.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 27,256.85 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 2,120.33. Markets in Southeast Asia were mixed.

U.S. DATA: Weighing on investor sentiment was a relatively pessimistic report on U.S. retail sales released Wednesday, which set off worries about the momentum of growth in the world's biggest economy. The Commerce Department's latest monthly report showed retail sales were essentially flat in April, falling short of Wall Street forecasts.

The QUOTE: "No matter how the data were cut up, retail sales looked lackluster. And with U.S. consumers not coming out of winter hibernation despite low gas prices ... prospects look grim," said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a market commentary.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.74 points, or 0.04 percent, to 18,060.49 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index 0.64 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,098.48. The Nasdaq composite added 5.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,981.69. The indexes were up for the month and year.

CURRENCIES: The weak data set off a dollar sell-off, which tends to work as a negative for Japanese and other Asian exporter stocks. The euro rose to $1.1378 from $1.1242 in the previous trading session. The dollar fell to 119.09 yen from 119.85 yen.

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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 19 cents at $60.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 25 cents to close at $60.50 in New York floor trading. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 25 cents at $67.02 a barrel in London.

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