Asian markets lower after Wall Street decline

Associated Press
A visitor touches Italian-American artist Arturo Di Modica's new Charging Bull statue, which is a similar version of his Wall Street Bull Thursday Aug. 30, 2012 in Shanghai, China. Shares fell Thursday in Asia, as positive news on U.S. economic growth dashed hopes for fresh measures by the Federal Reserve, and gloomy retail sales in Japan deepened concern over its recovery. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BEIJING (AP) — Asian markets fell Friday after Wall Street declined on pessimism about fuel prices and stagnant job growth while investors waited for a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, hoping for possible signs of new U.S. stimulus.

The Asian heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225, shed 1.5 percent to 8,852.32 points. China's Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.2 percent at 2,049.02 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.3 percent to 19,485.63.

Traders were waiting for Bernanke's speech Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, hoping for signs of new stimulus plans. Hopes for further action took a blow this week when the Fed's "Beige Book" survey of economic sentiment was fairly positive.

"The Federal Reserve symposium at Jackson Hole is widely expected to disappoint," said DBS Group in a report. "The Fed has scope to continue its wait-and-see approach, and keep open the door for action if needed."

Elsewhere in Asia, Seoul's Kospi index shed 0.1 percent to 1,904.62 and Sydney's ASX/S&P 200 was marginally lower at 4,314.80. Taiwan's Taiex rose 0.4 percent to 7,397.06.

Wall Street fell Thursday despite higher U.S. consumer spending. Investors were put off by concern about high fuel prices and stagnant employment.

The U.S. government reported consumer spending rose in July from June, after a flat June and a decline in May. Separately, retailers such as Target Corp., Gap Inc. and Macy's Inc. reported higher-than-expected August sales.

But investors instead worried the gains were only temporary, driven by back-to-school shopping that will peter out.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 106.77 points to 13,000.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 11.01 to 1,399.48. The Nasdaq composite slid 32.48 to 3,048.71.

South Korea reported July industrial production growth slowed more abruptly than expected, falling to 0.3 percent over a year earlier from June's 1.4 percent.

In Europe, a monthly survey of sentiment Thursday suggested the continent's growth is headed for a 2 percent contraction this year.

On Thursday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who usually avoids such pointed comments about other governments, expressed alarm about Europe's debt problems and called on Greece, Spain and Italy to embrace budget cuts and other reforms.

Inspectors from the so-called troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are due in Athens next month for a financial review on which hinges a rescue loan installment of €31 billion.

"There have been plenty of meetings among European leaders this week, but once again nothing concrete came out of it," said Stan Shamu of Australia's IG Markets in a report.

Benchmark oil for October delivery fell 3 cents to $94.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 87 cents to finish at $94.62 on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 78.44 from 78.63 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro was nearly unchanged at $1.2504.