TOKYO – Shares meandered in quiet trading in Asia on Wednesday after the Dow Jones industrial average inched closer to 20,000 and the Nasdaq Composite rose to a record high.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 percent to 19,423.20 despite a "limit-down" 20 percent plunge in Toshiba Corp.'s shares due to anticipated losses on its U.S. nuclear power operations. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 1 percent to 5,685.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.1 percent to 21,598.29 while the Shanghai Composite index fell 0.2 percent to 3,108.90. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.7 percent to 2,028.83. Shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.
WALL STREET: Trading was light following the long holiday weekend, with less than 1.9 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That's the lightest full day of trading since October 2015. The Dow added 11.23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,945.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.09 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,268.88. The Nasdaq rose 24.75 points, or 0.5 percent, to a record high 5,487.44.
THIS YEAR: The three major U.S. indexes have posted solid gains in 2016, led by the Dow, which is up 14.5 percent. The S&P 500 is on track for an 11 percent gain, while the Nasdaq is headed for a 9.6 percent gain. Small-company stocks are up even more. The Russell 2000 is up 21 percent so far this year. Japan's Nikkei 225 is just below where it began the year.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "Like a pendulum losing momentum, markets have trudged on at this subdued pace three sessions ahead of the year, waiting for a new catalyst to re-energize trade in the New Year," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. "Historically the market has always been up into the final days of the year and that seasonality trend certainly appears to hold true," Pan said.
JAPAN DATA: Retail sales edged up 0.2 percent from the month before in November, after a 2.5 percent jump in October. Industrial output rose 1.5 percent from the month before, in line with economists' expectations. Surging prices for fresh foods, especially vegetables, have dented consumer's appetites for spending, economists said. "The data provided a "flicker of optimism" Mizuho Bank economists said in a commentary, "But this is a far cry from an emphatic recovery."
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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 11 cents to $53.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 88 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $53.90 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 13 cents to $56.70 a barrel. It gained 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $56.83 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 117.59 yen from 117.44. The euro rose to $1.0474 from $1.0462.
AP Business Writer Alex Veiga in New York contributed.