Asian stocks lower as investors cautious on Chinese economy, Fed meeting

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets were lower Monday as weak Chinese manufacturing accelerated the sell-off in oil and other commodities. Investors were also cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later this week.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent to 20,394.41 and South Korea's Kospi was down 0.3 percent to 2,040.29. Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 2.1 percent to 24,599.73 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 5,558.50. Stocks in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and New Zealand were also lower. China's Shanghai Composite was down 1.2 percent at 4,022.91.

WEAK COMMODITIES: Investors sold oil, iron ore, copper, gold and other commodities after a survey last week showed China's manufacturing deteriorated in July. Weak manufacturing in the world's second-biggest economy augurs sluggish demand for such resources. Prices of copper and gold hit their lowest levels in several years following the Chinese manufacturing data. On Monday, gold bounced back from a five-year low.

ANALYST'S QUOTE: "A weak lead from the US and ongoing nervousness about commodity markets will see stock market trading start the week on a downbeat note," said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets, in a commentary.

FED MEETING: Traders are turning their minds toward the U.S. Federal Reserve as they try to assess when the central bank will start raising interest rates. The market appears split between those who think it will happen in September or December. Ultra low interest rates have been a boon for stock markets worldwide for several years and the start of US rate hikes is likely to ruffle markets. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee has a two-day policy that ends Thursday.

WALL STREET: U.S. stock markets finished the week sharply lower on Friday. The S&P 500 ended the day down 22.50 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,079.65, while the Dow Jones industrial average slid 163.39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,568.53. The Nasdaq composite lost 57.78 points, or 1.1 percent, to 5,088.63.

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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 17 cents at $47.97 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 31 cents to close at $48.14 a barrel in New York on Friday. International benchmark Brent crude was down 8 cents at $54.54 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro strengthened to $1.1007 from $1.0991 on Friday. The dollar fell to 123.56 yen from 123.79 yen.